INDIA’S BLACK MONEY CHRONICLES: THE LIECHTENSTEIN LIST AND INDIAN NAMES

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Liechtenstein is a tiny landlocked principality between Switzerland and Austria. The 160 Sq. Km. country that is almost one-tenth of Delhi’s 1500 Sq. Km. is known as a tax haven and its 38000 residents owe much of its wealth to illegal financial transactions through it’s over a dozen banks and many trusts. Liechtenstein is one of the richest countries of the world with its GDP per capita ($179,478.58) being highest in the world.

Earlier this year, on March 21, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley informed the Rajya Sabha during the Question Hour that the probe into the Indian names stashing black money in Liechtenstein banks was complete and undeclared income of around Rs 6500 crore was found.

The Liechtenstein scandal broke in February 2008 when a bank employee sold incriminating data to various countries containing names of account holders. In March 2009, under Indo-Germany Double Taxation Avoidance Convention, India got a list from the German government with names and details of Indians having accounts in Liechtenstein’s LGT Bank.

Since then, there have been many reports of Indians stashing their wealth in Liechtenstein, creating controversies and becoming a source of political mud-slinging in the country. From time to time, many news organisations have dug in and published list of account holders but there had been no clear official word about it from the Government of India until the Supreme Court forced it to do so.

Though the government launched a probe on the list provided by Germany, it never looked in hurry to take it to a logical conclusion. It, in fact, desisted from making the names public in the name of confidentiality clause with Germany and even resisted the Supreme Court order for three years before finally giving in.

The Supreme Court, in its July 4, 2011 order, had clearly laid out directives to make the names in the LGT list public and to constitute a Special Investigating Team (SIT) to comprehensively investigate the black money issue while hearing a petition filed by Ram Jethmalani and five others in the Supreme Court in 2009 to direct the government to recover the money stashed by Indians in foreign banks. The petition was filed against the Union of India, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).

On April 29, 2014, then Manmohan Singh’s United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, submitted an affidavit the Supreme Court revealing names of 18 people. The affidavit also named the trusts involved. While prosecution had been initiated against them, the centre also informed the court that it had found no grounds of tax evasion in eight other cases and requested not to make them public.

Ambrunova Trust and Marline Management: Manoj Dhupelia and Rupal Dhupelia, Bhavya Manoj Dhupelia, Mohan Manoj Dhupelia, Ambrish Manoj Dhupelia
Manichi Trust: Hasmuk Ishwarlal Gandhi, Chintan Hasmukh Gandhi, Madhu Hasmukh Gandhi, Late Mirav Hasmukh Gandhi
Ruvisha Trust: Rajesh Chandrakant Gandhi, Chandrakant Ishwarlal Gandhi, Viraj Chandrakant Gandhi, Dhanalaxmi Chandrakant Gandhi
Dainese Stiftung Trust: Arunkumar Ramniklal Mehta
Dryade Satiftunf Trust: Harshad Ramnikal Mehta
Webster Foundation: KM Mammen
Urvashi Foundation: Arun Kochhar
Raj Foundation: Ashok Jaipuria

WHAT CENTRE SAID IN ITS AFFIDAVIT

“It is respectfully submitted that the information regarding deposits/outstanding amounts in the accounts maintained by 12 trusties/entities with LGT bank in Liechtenstein was received by government from German tax authorities in March 2009 under the Indo-Germany Double Taxation Avoidance Convention.”

“The 12 trusts/entities involved 26 individuals of Indian origin. Out of the 26 cases, investigations in 18 cases have been concluded by the I-T department and prosecutions have been launched in 17 cases (one tax payer has expired).”

BLACK MONEY SIT

But the UPA government still did not come up with any word on forming the black money SIT. It, in fact, tried all to kill the issue. First it resisted any notion of forming the SIT during hearings but when it failed, the government filed an application to recall the entire 2011 verdict which was also dismissed by the apex court on March 26, 2014. But to stall the SIT formation, the UPA government again filed a review petition on May 8, 2014. It was also bound to be dismissed by the Supreme Court as it too had highlighted the same grounds as in its earlier appeals.

The 2014 parliamentary elections ousted the Manmohan government and Delhi’s power corridors were replaced by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Narendra Modi which, in its first official decision, constituted the black money SIT to headed by Justice (Retd.) M.B. Shah.

©SantoshChaubey

HAD NEVER SEEN SOCIAL PARITY IN INDIA LIKE THIS!

I had never seen social parity at this level, here in India, before this current phase that is undoing many historical stereotypes.

Being a media professional, I was aware of it since the moment it began, but it is only today that I got the first hand experience.

But before that, let’s be clear about it – that social parity basically applies to them who form the majority of our society – except out upper middles classes and elites (including some VIPism folks from the lower middle class). So this time also it is going to be about this ‘majority’. Like always, the other folks are never in this rate-race.

I had to go the Delhi airport today and I had only Rs. 500 notes in my wallet and some change that accounted for around Rs. 200. So, in spites of having a loaded purse, I was literally impoverished – to the hilt – because the airport ride needed anything around 500-1000 bucks depending on the mode of transport I would choose.

Okay, I could have gone the cashless way but there was this desperate urge to try the Delhi Metro route hoping that I would be able to get at least some change for my Rs. 500 notes. So there I was.

But to my dismay I found there (at Delhi Metro stations) sympathetic customer care executives or nonchalant cash counters but not the problem of my solution. And soon whatever change I had was gone.

And I was not alone. There were multitudes. How I came out of this quagmire is a story for another day. Today it is basically about the social parity this sudden move by the Government of India has brought where all the biggies have suddenly become commoners like us – at least for the stuff that they need cash to trade for – like in transportation or petrol pumps or for buying the stuff of daily usage like milk or grocery items. Now you can use your Rs. 500 or Rs. 1000 notes at many places but the problem is even those places are running dry.

So, all of a sudden, uniformity can be seen among masses thronging our roads or streets. Those having millions or those barely surviving on their salaries or daily earnings, they all can be seen in ATM or bank queues. I appreciate AIIMS for this sort of culture – in spite of having loads of people from VIP fulcrum or staff-linkages, a man flashing his latest iPhone model can be seen in same queue waiting for his turn along with the man who kills his waiting hours by playing with the buttons of basic feature phone.

If we leave some of the super-elite aside (after all, in every democratic society, a class like this always exists – after all, history needs to preserve its elements, even if it is elitism and VIPism), all in the society looked on an open platform today which had no extensions to offer.

They all are talking of the similar pains (and gains).

So, even if everyone was flashing his Rs. 500 or Rs. 1000 note, it meant nothing to the guy sitting on the other side. And it is the story of the whole country.

It was like – either everyone was victim – or everyone was perpetrator – though the victim corollary works better here.

It is like you have all – and you have nothing.

Everyone was looking in a similar social hue today – in fact has been looking like this since November 8 when prime minister Narendra Modi suddenly announced that the biggies of our currency flow would become unwanted existences post midnight.

©SantoshChaubey

CURRENCY NOTES IN CIRCULATION: BASIC STATS

RESOURCES

WORTH

  • 17,54,000 CRORE: OVERALL WORTH OF NOTES IN CIRCULATION

IN VALUE TERMS

  • RS 500 NOTES CONSTITUTE 45% OF THIS
    RS 1000 NOTES CONSTITUTE 39% OF THIS

IN VOLUME TERMS

  • RS. 10 AND RS. 100 NOTES CONSTITUTE 53% OF THIS.

RS. 500 AND RS. 1000 NOTES IN CIRCULATION

ACCORDING TO A BUSINESS STANDARD REPORT QUOTING DEPUTY GUV R GANDHI:

  • “16.5 BILLION RS 500 NOTES AND 6.7 BILLION RS 1000 NOTES IN CIRCULATION CURRENTLY”.

ACCORDING TO A BLOOMBERGQUINT REPORT QUOTING THE RBI,

  • 7% OF NOTES IN CIRCULATION: RS. 1000
  • 14.7% OF NOTES IN CIRCULATION: RS. 500

RS. 6,32,600 CRORE IN CIRCULATION – IN THE FORM OF RS. 1000 NOTES – TO BE REPLACED BY RS. 2000 NOTES

CURRENCY CHESTS

  • STATE BANK OF INDIA – HAVING STRONGEST CURRENCY CHEST IN INDIA – 1965 IN NUMBER
  • SBI AFFILIATES – 757 CURRENCY CHESTS
  • OTHER NATIONALIZED BANKS – 1173 CURRENCY CHESTS
  • PRIVATE BANKS – 160 CURRENCY CHESTS

COUNTERFEIT

2015-16: COMMERCIAL BANKS FLOW DELECTATED 6.5 LAKH COUNTERFEIT NOTES.

  • 30%: EXPANSION IN ECONOMY BETWEEN 2011 TO 2016.
  • 40%: INCREASE IN CIRCULATION OF CURRENCY NOTES.
  • 76%: INCREASE IN CIRCULATION OF RS. 500 NOTES IN THE SAME PERIOD.
  • 109%: INCREASE IN CIRCULATION OF RS. 1000 NOTES.
  • 4 LAKH OF THESE NOTES WERE OF RS. 500 AND RS 1,000.

GOVERNMENT WANTS TO CHECK THIS BY RE-MONETISING RS. 500 NOTE AND REPLACING RS. 1000 NOTE BY RS. 2000 NOTE.

BUT WHAT ABOUT COUNTERFEIT RS. 100 NOTES?

RS. 100 COUNTERFEIT NOTES IN CIRCULATION: 2 LAKH

©SantoshChaubey

BLACK MONEY: SC TAKES AWAY SHEEN FROM NARENDRA MODI & BJP GOVT

It was a big day politically for BJP with the party declaring its chief minister for Maharashtra but its prospect was marred by two hostile developments, the developments that BJP cannot take on head-on to defend itself or to attack to deflect the barrage of questions being shot on it.

Because, the developments owe their genesis to an agency criticising or attacking which will only harm the party.

Judicial activism has been a sore point for Indian politics and the politicians running the show but has come as the saving grace, the desperate ray of hope for millions of Indians cursed to be crushed under political apathy and corruption.

It is not that the judiciary is corrupt. It is. It is, in fact, highly corrupt at lower levels but when the judicial activism gets its flow from the apex judicial body, the Supreme Court of India, it sends a stern message to the erratic institutions and individuals, including the lower levels of judiciary. And this message is repeated every time, whenever the Supreme Court wields the Constitutional hammer to rein in the erring parties.

So, when the Supreme Court came down heavily, twice, on the Indian government today, criticising it for ‘repeated’ excuses on forming government in Delhi or conducting fresh elections and rapping it for ‘selective’ disclosure of the names of the black money account holders, the warning, the message was repeated again, but, with a severe symbolic blow to BJP this time.

And it was not about the issue of government formation in Delhi. It was, as expected, about the black money issue.

So, even if the Supreme Court’s direct question on ‘how BJP would form the government’ was embarrassing enough as BJP cannot form the government in Delhi with ethical and transparent means, it was humiliating and shocking when the apex court directed the BJP-led Union Government to submit the list of all overseas account holders by tomorrow, an issue on which the government had taken a U-turn on ‘complete disclosure’, going as far as to appeal to the Supreme Court to review its 2011 order that ‘had sought complete disclosure’ of information.

Now, BJP could have championed the cause, as it had been making promises and war-cry about it since the matter started getting wider attention with the PIL in Supreme Court in 2009. It was one of the major poll planks of BJP and Narendra Modi spoke at length about it.

But, they could not champion it, even if they had the intent. They failed in recognizing the pulse and packaging the communication.

Sooner or later, they had to reveal all the names because it was a Supreme Court monitored probe. But the way they made statements with selective disclosures of three names only and talked of revealing more names in stages and phases with no definite timeline made for negative headlines and indicated of political motives to score political mileage. The Supreme Court Bench would have all these aspects under consideration while dealing the blow to the ruling party today.

So, the championing edge that BJP carved and used in the days before May 26, 2014, the day Narendra Modi’s government was inaugurated, was lost today.

What BJP should have done had to be put into motion by the Supreme Court and the NDA government led by BJP acted in the way similar to that of practiced by Manmohan Singh led UPA government.

BJP messed with the wrong pole here, a pole that has remained the very few avenues left where the common Indian can pin his hopes hoping for getting the truth out of web of political U-turns.

BJP, its leaders, and its rank and file – they simply lost the Black Money advantage today.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/