NEW DELHI: The government has zeroed in on 427 foreign account holders, finance minister ArunJaitley said in Parliament on Wednesday as the opposition sought to corner the government over black money. Of the account holders identified, 250 have confirmed holding funds in foreign banks, the FM said.
Jaitley’s statement came after a day-long debate on black money during which the opposition sought an apology from the government for failing to deliver on its poll promise of getting illicit money back within hundred days of assuming office.
Sharing details of account holders and spelling out steps being taken, Jaitley referred to an HSBC list of 627 account holders received by the government. “Total 250 of them have admitted to having accounts, making the government’s task easier,” he said. Talking about the 427 accounts identified, he said the government is assessing them and notices will be sent.
The government, he assured the Upper House, will “pro-actively chase” those with black money and won’t rest till the last account is identified. But “we have to disclose the names in a prudent and thoughtful manner,” he said, adding it can’t be a “one-day thrill”.
Maintaining that revealing the names of account holders at this stage may prove “suicidal”, he warned that premature disclosure will help the account holders because it’ll prompt countries to refrain from sharing information.
Unconvinced, members of the Congress, TMC, JD(U), SP and CPM walked out even before Jaitley could conclude his reply.
Both in the RS and LS, Congress and TMC alleged that BJP had “sold lies” and misled the nation for which the government should apologise. “This is a treadmill government. The government seems to be moving but in reality it is doing nothing,” Kamal Nath of Congress later said.
Initiating a discussion in the RS, Congress deputy leader Anand Sharma said when BJP was in the opposition, it had “misled” the country making tall promises of bringing back black money.
“Narendra Modi, during BJP’s poll campaign, had claimed that black money was to the tune of Rs 85 lakh crore, equal to five Union budgets and that it was enough to put Rs 15 lakh in the account of all Indian citizens,” he said, asking the government where was the money which BJP had promised to bring back.
Jaitley shot back: “We’ve done more in 100 days than other governments” and noted that the confidentiality clause prevents disclosure of names of foreign account holders unless prosecution is launched against them.
Responding to questions, he said in its very first meeting in May, the Modi Cabinet had decided to set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT), a proposal pending since July 2011.
The government, he added, has handed over all documents relating to black money to this SIT which will submit its second report to SC by the month-end.