Records of phone taps or their transcripts will not be a part of the database of the proposed national repository of economic intelligence -- the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau -- in order to ensure the sanctity of these conversations.
"The CEIB will have nothing to do with records of phone taps or their transcripts done by various enforcement agencies. These tappings will strictly be in the domain of the concerned agency and they will only share actionable leads with the database of CEIB," S S Khan, the chairman of the committee reviewing the CEIB, told PTI.
However, during brainstorming sessions to review the role and functioning of the CEIB and make it a nodal agency at the behest of the government, a high-level committee recommended that the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of the Indian government should share crucial Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) with the top economic snoop body in order to strengthen its powers.
STRs are reported to the FIU by various banking institutions and intermediaries for further dissemination to law enforcement agencies. In recent months, the government has undertaken various measures to ensure the privacy and sanctity of legal phone taps and to prevent their leakage after portions of conversations between corporate lobbyist Neera Radia and others, intercepted by the I-T Department, surfaced in the public domain.
The committee had submitted its recommendations to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee last week after three months of consultation with various economic and security-oriented enforcement and intelligence bodies. "Strong recommendation has been made to supply the STRs generated by FIU to the CEIB. The STRs will make the database of the agency strong and relevant," Khan, a former CBDT member and Director General of Income Tax (Investigations), said.
In order to bolster its database, the CEIB will also enter into a host of Memorandums of Understanding with various intelligence and enforcement agencies and it has been proposed to augment the workforce of the agency by hiring candidates from the private sector who have a technical bent of mind, Khan said.
The committee, in its 140-page report, recommended that the CEIB be made and empowered as the national repository of all economic crimes, instances of money laundering and tax evasion and a database of the multifarious economic offences investigated by agencies like the Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax department, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and Directorate of Central Excise Intelligence.
Different agencies, as per the recommendations, will share information with the CEIB, which, in turn, will be able to provide back-end support, linkages and insights harnessing the power of databases and data analytics to the agencies and offering a holistic view of these activities to the government.