India

India submits list with 'black money' names to court

India notes being counted Image copyright AFP
Image caption Undeclared cash is seen as a major hurdle to India's economic growth

The Indian government has given a list containing names of all Indians suspected to have parked untaxed wealth in foreign banks to the Supreme Court.

The list with 627 names was submitted to the court in a sealed envelope on Wednesday.

The top court has said the list will be forwarded to the special investigation team (SIT) which is inquiring into the issue of illegal funds.

It is estimated that Indians hold $500bn (£297bn) in overseas tax havens.

India says illegal funds are often sent to tax havens, including Mauritius, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the British Virgin Islands, and the new government has said "unearthing black money is an important issue" for them.

In June, India set up a special task force to find "black money", in one of the first decisions taken by the new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

On Monday, the government disclosed to the court names of seven people and one company it said were being prosecuted over accusations of concealing wealth kept in foreign banks from income tax authorities.

But critics have accused the government of "drip-feeding" names and trying to protect powerful people, prompting the Supreme Court's latest order.

"Why are you trying to protect people having bank accounts in foreign countries?" Chief Justice HL Dattu asked government lawyers on Tuesday.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters that the "government shall place the list before the court because the government has already given it to the court-constituted special investigation team".

"The truth about these names and also these accounts must come out so that penal action can be taken against the people and the money lying there can be brought back to India," he said.

In 2011, French authorities informed India of some 700 Indians with Swiss bank accounts - the information came from a data leak by a bank employee.

Analysts say this flight of capital has helped widen inequality in India.

The former Congress party-led government had been on the back foot on the issue of "black money" and corruption, and the Supreme Court has also chided the government for not doing enough to unearth illicit money.

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