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India’s Super Rich Nervously Await Swiss Bank Revelations

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India's Super Rich Nervously Await Swiss Bank Revelations

India’s Super Rich Nervously Await Swiss Bank Revelations

New Delhi: The sealed envelope with the names of 627 Indians holding bank accounts overseas, against whom a probe is on to ascertain conformity with domestic tax laws, is to be passed on to a special team set up under the Supreme Court’s direction.

This directive from the apex court came after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi submitted the envelope along with two others to a bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu, and Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Madan B. Lokur Wednesday, as sought by them a day earlier.

The Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by Justice M.B. Shah, with Justice Arijit Pasayat as vice chair, was called for by the Supreme Court by way of an order July 4, 2011, and officially notified by the government end-May this year.

The other two envelopes pertain to information furnished by the French government and the action taken by the Government of India thus far in trying to get back the illegal funds parked by Indians in overseas banks and estimated at between $426 billion and $1.4 trillion.

Directing further hearing on the matter Dec 3, the apex court said the special team, by that time, would submit its status report on the steps taken by it in pursuance to this list of 627 account holders.

Rohatgi told the apex court that half of these account holders were Indian residents and the other half non-resident Indians and pertained to a period up to 2006. He said action was initiated, with some of having paid the taxes and others under investigation.

The top law officer requested on behalf of the government that care be taken such that nothing impedes the Indian authorities and probe agencies in getting information from these countries and others on foreign accounts in future.

Importantly, he said, the Income Tax Act had been amended to extend the limitation period for recovering taxes from these account holders till March 31, 2015. Earlier, the limitation period was six years and would have expired in 2012.

Rohatgi once again told the apex court that the government had no intention to hold back any information or names it had in its possession on this matter and was open to inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation, Income Tax authorities or any other agency.

“Our only one request is: According to terms of the treaties entered by the government with other countries, there is a confidentiality clause. Nothing should be done that may impede our ability to get information from these countries and others,” he said.

The court agreed. “We have no intention of causing any embarrassment to the government. We will send all these names to the SIT and ask them to proceed in accordance with law.”

All the 627 accounts in the list are at HSBC Bank in Geneva and the details were secured from the French government. The data was actually stolen by a bank employee, as a result of which the Swiss authorities declined help in any manner, the court was told.

At the same time, HSBC Bank had said that if the Indian authorities get a no-objection certificate from the account holders, it could then share the relevant details. Some 50-60 of the account holders had given their consent.

The entire matter came up after senior counsel Ram Jethmalani and others filed a public interest suit wanting the government to be restrained from signing double tax avoidance pacts with other nations, and block information flow on ill-gotten money parked abroad.

The appointment of the special probe team was one of the outcomes.

SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Nawaz sharif

Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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