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No real visible change seen on black money issue under NDA, says P Chidambaram

New Delhi: Former union cabinet minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has said that he would like to see the incumbent National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime live up to its 2014 electoral promise to bring back all the black money alleged owned by Indians and stashed in banks abroad.

He maintained that he is yet to see a visible change in the government’s policy with regard to the issue of black money. Chidambaram in an exclusive interview said that as far as he was concerned, there has been no real change from the policies pursued by the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime.

He said, “As far as I know, nothing has changed, we got a list from Lichtenstein, and we got a list of HSBC (Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation), which the whistle blower gave to France and France gave it to us. We initiated action against people in those two lists, roughly one-half of those persons were non-residential Indians (NRIs), and therefore, they were entitled to hold money abroad. Of the remaining half, notices were issued during UPA time, a number of people gave consent affidavits, consenting to securing the details from the bank, those details were secured.”

“In many cases, prosecutions were launched, that action continued under the NDA government. As far as I know, the NDA Government has not found any list or any names over and above the names that we had got when the UPA was in government. Of course, the NDA has passed a new bill on foreign black money. Whether the bill will have the affect only time will say,” he stated further.

When asked whether jurisdictions like Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai comply with the automatic exchange of information and in the handing over of the lists, Chidambaram said, “I don’t think they do that yet. I think the automatic exchange of information, which was agreed by the G-20, which is being steered by a group, I don’t know when it is coming to effect, many countries have signed it, some countries have not. We were members of the G-20 when this process was initiated.”

“I am very happy that there is agreement on automatic sharing of information, whenever it comes into effect. I hope that member countries will automatically share information,” he added.

On the issue of NRIs with Indian passports being covered under this automatic exchange of information, Chidambaram said, “An NRI is entitled to have an income abroad, entitled to have wealth abroad and entitled to have a bank account abroad, that is not illegal. However, if that NRI has income in India and is also being taxed in India, then India should have the right to have information about his global income.

Just as the US insists that every US citizen, wherever he may have income, that information must be available to the US, India must also have the right to have information about anyone who is taxed in India. But if the NRI is not taxed in India, then obviously, India may not have right to get information about him.”

In India, black money refers to funds earned on the black market, on which income and other taxes have not been paid. The total amount of black money deposited in foreign banks by Indians is unknown. Some reports claim a total that exceeds $16.4 trillion are stashed in banks in Switzerland.

A US-based think tank had earlier this week ranked India as the fourth-biggest source of black money with $510 billion (Rs ​10.02 lakh crore) worth of illicit financial flows during 2004-2013, or $51 billion (Rs 3.4 lakh crore) annually, on average.

The Washington-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI) research and advisory group has said in its report that $1.1 trillion flowed out of developing and emerging economies illicitly in 2013 alone. It said the capital outflow stemmed from tax evasion, crime, corruption and other illegal activities.

The report says China tops the list for 2004-2013, with $139 billion (Rs 9.28 lakh crore) average illicit financial flow per annum, followed by Russia with $104 billion (Rs 6.94 lakh crore) per annum and Mexico at $52.8 billion (Rs ​3.52 lakh crore) per annum.

Titled ‘Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2004-2013’, the study shows that illicit financial flows first surpassed $1 trillion in 2011, grew to $1.1 trillion in 2013, marking a dramatic increase from 2004, when outflows were $465.3 billion.

GFI’s report puts out data for 10-year periods. Its previous two editions had rankings for 2003-2012 and 2002-2011. India was at fourth and fifth spots in these periods, respectively.