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Panama-papers: Indian agencies to wait and watch

business Updated: Apr 04, 2016 13:35 IST

View of a sign outside the building where Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm offices are placed in Panama City on April 3, 2016. A massive leak -coming from Mossack Fonseca- of 11.5 million tax documents on Sunday exposed the secret offshore dealings of the world’s rich and the famous.(AFP)

As the world woke up to a massive financial scam that enveloped global leaders, corporates, entertainers and several heads of states, Indian financial authorities chose to remain silent on the Panama money-laundering expose on Monday.

Calls and messages to senior finance ministry officials did not elicit any response, even as the government is engaged in continuous efforts to curb black money in the country.

Ministry sources said the government would not to react on the media reports, adding that the finance minister would communicate the official stand later in the day.

“The government doesn’t react to media reports like this. Already India has set up an SIT which is investigating all possibilities of such sort or money laundering and black money hoarders. The apex court is seized of the matter too. This is a sub-judice area. Any such media report becomes a serious source of information which needs to be investigated further before government comes out with any statement,” said a finance ministry source.

The Enforcement Directorate, which handles cases of money laundering and illegal remittances, is yet to act upon the expose by Indian Express, said sources. “ We are an enforcement agency and can only investigate a case if there is an existing FIR” explained the source quoted above, who did not wish to be named.

Another government official pointed out that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money is likely to look into the facts revealed by ICIJ, the international consortium of investigative journalists. “But the direction will have to come from finance ministry” added the official.

Several sources in the finance ministry pointed out that a full fledged probe into the “Panama-papers” is unlikely since the information has not come to the Government through any official channel.

An international coalition of media outlets on Sunday published an extensive investigation into offshore financial dealings of the rich and famous, based on a vast trove of documents provided by an anonymous source.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalism, a non-profit organisation based in Washington, said the cache of 11.5 million records detailed the offshore holdings of a dozen current and former world leaders, as well as businessmen, criminals, celebrities and sports stars. The list of these celebrities included the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Vladimir Putin among others.