Amid a heated exchange sparked by comments from suspended BJP MP Ram Jethmalani, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley briefed Rajya Sabha on the recovery of black money from foreign bank accounts. Jaitley said during question hour that the government has completed investigation against persons named in HSBC and Liechtenstein banks and made an assessment totalling around Rs 15,000 crore. Investigation against 628 persons named in the HSBC list has been completed, an assessment to the tune of Rs 8,437 crore in 409 of these cases made and 119 prosecutions filed against them. The government has also assessed each of those named by Liechtenstein Bank and an assessment of around Rs 6,500 crore undeclared income has been made, he said.
This followed almost 30 minutes of acrimonious exchanges. Veteran lawyer Jethmalani, 94, had asked the government whether it had made any effort to get the names of black money holders offered by Germany. While the opposition accused the government of not doing anything except making false promises, the government said several steps have been taken including enactment of new laws. Jethmalani accused the finance minister of misleading the House, and angry ruling party members sought an apology. The words used by Jethmalani were expunged.
“You must expel all of them if you want the House to function,” Jethmalani said as he sought silence in the House, to which the chair said it is an “interesting suggestion but cannot be implemented”. Chairman Hamid Ansari kept telling the ruling party members, “You are ministers. You can’t do it [stand up and protest].”
During his reply, Jaitley was asked about the amount of money that has come into banks after demonetisation. “No one definitive estimate can be made at this stage,” he said. “But it is undeniably true that large amounts of cash money operating in the system does result in generation of black money. With all that money now deposited in banks, the anonymity with that money itself stands extinguished. The money now stands identified with the owner of those accounts and hopefully a larger number of transactions through banks post this would now be inevitably possible,” he said.
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