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Pranab Mukherjee on Trial
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
Finally the pressures exerted on the government to probe India’s illegal money stashed in foreign banks are beginning to show some results. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee signed a revised Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) with the Swiss foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey last Monday. By this treaty the Swiss government will provide relevant information on cases related to tax fraud and tax evasion. The DTA will become operative from January 1, 2011. Swiss authorities insist on specific information regarding bank accounts and will not allow fishing expeditions by the Indian government.
There have been repeated demands after the Hassan Ali money laundering case and other similar cases for the government to act expeditiously to recover black money from abroad. Earlier there was evidence that the government chose to stonewall moves for any genuine progress in such cases. It remains to be seen how Finance Minister Mukherjee acquits himself after this latest treaty.
There is a simple litmus test to ascertain whether the government is willing to act without fear or favour in pursuing these cases. There have been repeated references in these columns to the Swiss bank account that was allegedly held by Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s family. The Indian government has simply to ask the Swiss authorities for information about the bank account regarding which one of Switzerland’s most prestigious journals, Schweizer Illustrierte, had reported.
On 11 November, 1991 the journal had reported that Rahul Gandhi was the beneficiary of accounts worth 2 billion dollars which were controlled by his mother Sonia Gandhi. If the reports published in a book by a member of the Soviet government’s KGB Commission is to be believed either part or the entire money most likely came from the Soviet KGB. The Russian government confirmed the veracity of the disclosure in the book. Its official spokesman speaking to media defended it as necessary for "Soviet ideological interest." When the alleged payments to the Gandhi family commenced Rahul Gandhi was just two years old. The Swiss account if it existed may have been closed down and the money deposited elsewhere. But the record of the account as alleged by Schweizer Illustrierte must still be there with the bank. If the account was not declared with Indian Income Tax authorities it is a clear case of tax evasion. This information is not only in print in both media and a book but is also on the popular and respected Internet website, Wikipedia.
Is it not the government’s duty to verify this information? If it is correct legal action should be taken to recover tax dues. If it is incorrect the government owes it to the Gandhi family and to the nation to nail the lie and institute legal action against those who published such reports.
How will Pranab Mukherjee respond?
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09/02/2010 23:00 PM