The Enforcement Directorate has so far acted against only the small fry in investigations into the Panama Papers case, while the sharks are still out of the reach of the agency’s net, sources say.
The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of millions of files from the database of one of the world’s biggest offshore law firms, Mossack Fonseca. The records were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ then shared them with a large network of international partners. The Papers contain, among other things, details of 426 Indians, many of whom are allegedly involved in illegal offshore investments.
Sources said that the ED has not been given a free hand to act against all Indians named in the Panama Papers. The agency has not even sent notices to most of the high-profile individuals named in the exposé. “If we keep aside a few big names like Vijay Mallya, most of the individuals the ED is investigating are comparatively low-profile individuals,” a source close to the investigation told The Sunday Guardian.
Currently, the ED’s action as part of the investigations is limited to 47 Indians out of the 426 Indians named in the Papers. “Out of 47 cases ED is acting on, only in five cases, criminal prosecution complaints have been filed, while in seven cases, notices under Section 10 of the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income & Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015, have been issued,” the same source said.
Earlier this month, the ED seized properties worth Rs 48.87 crore of Ahmedabad-based Sintex Industries in connection with its transactions. The names of Amit Patel and Rahul Patel, directors of Sintex Industries Limited, figured in the Panama Papers.
“The seizure of properties linked to Sintex Industries is so far the lone case in which the ED has initiated prosecution action in the Panama Papers case. Nothing has happened against the rest of the individuals named in the exposé,” the source sited above added.
Investigations into the Panama Papers expose are not only slow, but those in the Paradise Papers leaks case, in which over 700 Indians, besides individuals from other countries, were named by the ICIJ this year for alleged involvement in illegal offshore investment activities, are also not headed anywhere. Indians named in the Paradise Papers include Amitabh Bachchan, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Rajya Sabha MP R.K. Sinha, corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt’s wife, and Vijay Mallya, among others.
A source close to investigations in the Paradise Papers case told The Sunday Guardian: “The ED has begun investigations in the Paradise Papers case, but it is yet to issue any notices in the case.”
When the Paradise Papers case hit Indian media headlines, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) issued a statement that the investigating units of the Income Tax Department had been alerted to take note of the revelations for immediate appropriate action, but nothing had happened since then.
The CBDT statement had also said that the government had directed that investigations in the Paradise Papers case, would be monitored through a reconstituted multi-agency group, headed by the CBDT chairman having representatives from the ED, Reserve Bank of India and the Financial Intelligence Unit. But according to sources, the multi-agency probe group has not held even a single meeting.