New Delhi: Expressing concern that the blackmoney stashed in banks abroad might have originated from arms deals, drug trafficking and smuggling, the Supreme Court today asked the government as to what action it had taken against individuals and firms having foreign accounts.
A bench headed by Justice B Sudarshan Reddy directed the government to file its response by Thursday next.
The court also sought replies from the government, RBI and CVC on a petition seeking direction to the government to ratify UN convention on corruption which would facilitate in bringing back blackmoney from foreign banks.
Asking the government not to restrict its probe only to the tax evasion aspect, the bench told the government to go after the sources of blackmoney.
"We want to know what steps you have taken against the people who have accumulated so much money in foreign banks. What are the sources of the money," the bench asked.
"These are people in the country who are amenable to the law. What action have you taken against them when you came to know that they have stashed money in foreign banks?
"What are the sources of the money? Where has the money come from? It might be because of arms deals, smuggling, narcotics, drug trafficking or something else. These are more serious issues, when you know the name, what action you have taken?," the bench asked.
"That is a serious matter which we are concerned about. You know the names, (you know) where the money is lying, still you are talking about double taxation issue," the bench said when Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium submitted that the government is taking all actions under Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) against the people who have stashed money in foreign banks.
"Looking at the issue from the taxation point of view is just one aspect but there are other serious matters associated with the black money which we are concerned about," the bench said.
The government, however, submitted that it is taking action under international agreements and the law against the erring persons and it has no problems in sharing the information with the court.
The solicitor general submitted that many agencies are working on the case and investigation is going on.
Senior advocate Anil Divan, appearing for petitioner and former Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani, accused the government of not being serious on the issue, saying that Pune-Based businessman Hasan Ali, facing probe for his foreign bank accounts, has fled the country.
The court, after hearing Divan, asked the government to find out whether Ali is present in the country or has left it.
The court after hearing the arguments posted the matter for further hearing on Thursday.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Jethmalani seeking direction to the government to bring back black money stashed in foreign banks which, according to him, amounted to around USD one trillion.
The apex court had on January 19, while hearing the matter, had expressed displeasure over the government's reluctance in coming forward with full information on the black money issue, saying keeping national wealth abroad amounted to "plunder" of the country.
"It is a pure and simple theft of the national money. We are talking about mind-boggling crime. We are not on the niceties of various treaties," the court had remarked.
The remark by the bench had been made when the solicitor general was explaining various steps taken by the government under the Double Taxation Avoidance Act.
The court had expressed unhappiness that the government had filed an affidavit restricting information relating to the money deposited by 26 persons in Liechtenstein Bank in Germany.