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“Why limit matter to Liechtenstein Bank?”

J. Venkatesan

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned the Centre's approach to tackling black money menace.

In the course of the hearing on a petition filed by the former Union Law Minister, Ram Jethmalani, and others, Justice S.S. Nijjar asked Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam: “Why are you limiting the matter to the Liechtenstein Bank?” Pointing out that nothing would stop or preclude the court from expanding the scope of the writ petition in the public interest, he said, “All we want is that you give all information about the money deposited in the foreign banks by Indians. You cannot confine the petition to one bank.”

Earlier, Mr. Subramaniam said sharing of information by the countries concerned depended on treaties, otherwise they were not bound to furnish details.

Senior counsel Anil Divan, appearing for petitioners, said they had sought 21 documents and letters, including the government's communication with German authorities, UBS AG Switzerland and LGT Bank, Liechtenstein, a tax haven, but only five documents were furnished.

The petitioners had also sought certain documents in the case registered against Pune-based businessman Hasan Ali Khan, against whom the Enforcement Directorate lodged a complaint for violating the Foreign Exchange Management Act to the tune of Rs. 36,000 crore.

Mr. Divan said: “Not a single individual whose name is allegedly given by the German government has been proceeded against; no vigorous steps are being taken against Hasan Ali Khan and he is not being custodially interrogated.” The Centre had taken cover under the double-taxation avoidance agreement with the mala fide intention of concealing information from the public. For, the issue of tax avoidance had no relevance to the source of money, counsel said.

Mr. Subramaniam will give further reply on January 27.

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