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India will ensure return of black money from overseas: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, March 5 (IANS) India will take every possible measure to ensure the return of ill-gotten money stashed away in tax havens abroad and has already started dialogue with other governments for necessary pacts, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Friday.

‘Twenty countries have been prioritised for entering into agreements regarding exchange of information and systems in connection with taxes. Negotiations have been completed with the governments,’ the prime minister told the Lok Sabha.

 

‘Steps have been taken for signing of agreements. We have also approached Switzerland for renegotiation of our tax treaty so that we can have access to the information,’ he told the lower house, replying to remarks by the opposition on a host of issues.

 

The discussion was on the motion of thanks to the president for her address last month to both houses of parliament.

 

According to the prime minister, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was also pursuing the matter with respect to a new protocol for sharing of information on tax evaders, and that such a mechanism would be put in place soon.

 

While no official data is available on the quantum of slush funds, it is estimated that such black money stashed away by Indian nationals in tax havens overseas could be worth nearly $140 billion.

 

The remark came against the backdrop of President Pratibha Patil also assuring the two houses of parliament last month that the government will ensure that black money stashed abroad will be unearthed and brought back to the country.

 

‘India is an active part of the global efforts to facilitate exchange of tax information and take action against tax evaders,’ the president told the joint session of parliament to kick-off the ensuing budget session.

 

As per data available with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), India is among the 40-odd nations that have substantially implemented the globally accepted norms on exchange of information on tax.

 

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has also ordered re-negotiation of all the 77 double-tax avoidance pacts entered into so far to get real time information and track tax evasions or stashing away of black money in other countries.

 

The prime minister’s replies were also directed at the demands by L.K. Advani of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, who demanded a white paper on the government’s efforts and the progress made to recover black money from abroad.

 

‘What has been the progress so far towards recovering black money? The government should come out with a status or white paper,’ Advani had said, while thanking the president for her remarks on black money.

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