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‘Panama Papers’: India to attend OECD meet in Paris

New Delhi: India will take part in a special OECD meet on April 13 in Paris to firm up cooperation between countries in the wake of the ‘Panama Papers’ leak that has seen the government
PTI April 11, 2016 21:58 IST

New Delhi: India will take part in a special OECD meet on April 13 in Paris to firm up cooperation between countries in the wake of the ‘Panama Papers’ leak that has seen the government here order a multi-agency probe after 500 Indians were named in it as holding offshore assets in the tax haven.

The Finance Ministry received the invite last week from the Paris-based body and it has been decided that a Director-rank officer of CBDT will represent the country at the day-long special session, officials said.

Officials said India is looking forward to the meet as the country adheres to a number of Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)-mandated norms aimed at strengthening overseas tax cooperation and exchange of information and also follows fiscal guidelines endorsed by it.

The government has set up a Multi-Agency Group (MAG) to investigate the Indian names and entities mentioned in the leaks and a preliminary report has been sought by this week by the ministry, which is expected to forward it to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

”The Income Tax department will issue notices to those whose names figure in the Panama leaks. They will be asked to explain their position and the next course of action will be determined thereafter,” they said.

The MAG, which met here today for the second time after April 7, had during the first meeting decided to approach OECD along with another similar forum—the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in connection with its probe.

Announcing the date for the meeting, the OECD secretariat had said, “Government officials from around the world have called upon OECD to convene a special meeting of the Joint International Tax Shelter Information and Collaboration (JITSIC) network to explore possibilities of cooperation and
information-sharing, identify tax compliance risks and agree on collaborative action in the light of the ‘Panama Papers’.

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”The meeting will bring together senior tax administration officials from countries worldwide.”

The ‘Panama Papers’ had disclosed the names of nearly 500 Indians, including celebrities and industrialists, who allegedly have money stashed away in offshore entities in Panama, which is considered to be a tax haven.

The names were released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with ‘Indian Express’ newspaper in India. The ICIJ added a disclaimer that there are also “legitimate uses for offshore companies”.

The OECD JITSIC is a network of tax administration officials with responsibility for responding to global compliance risks through active collaboration and fast andeffective information exchange with other tax administrations.

”The ‘Panama Papers’ leaks contain an unprecedented amount of information, including more than 11 million documents covering 2,10,000 companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions. Each transaction spans a number of different jurisdictions and may involve multiple entities and individuals.

”The meeting at OECD presents tax administrations with a first opportunity to act on the considerable body of information revealed by the ‘Panama Papers’ release. As a network of tax administrations committed to sharing intelligence and working together to tackle common risks, the
JITSIC network is well-placed to take on this challenge,” OECD had said.

The MAG comprises officials of RBI, IT department, Financial Intelligence Unit, Enforcement Directorate and Foreign Tax and Tax Research.

Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha today said here that a strict investigation into the ‘Panama Papers’ is on to determine if illegalities are involved in the overseas Indian accounts.