New Delhi: Assuring that India has started a process to trace black money stashed away in foreign banks, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Friday the government would work under the legal framework to bring the money back and punish the culprits.
Stating that the quantum of black money had not been specified by anybody, the minister said: "Various figures are being floated - the first thing I have decided to do is to appoint a group to quantify the black money."
Replying to a debate on the budget for fiscal 2011-12 in the Lok Sabha, he said varying estimates put the quantum as ranging between $462 billion to $1.4 trillion but the figures were not reliable.
Mukherjee said the government has two figures on black money, one by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) taskforce that has put the amount between $500 billion to $1.4 trillion and the other by the US-based Global Financial Integrity that estimated that Indians had stashed $462 billion in foreign banks between 1948 and 2008.
The finance minister said the government had started a legal proceeding to book the culprits.
"Any amount of anxiety is not going to bring the black money back. We live in a society which is governed by rule of law and we shall have to proceed as per the law," he said.
He added that the government just cannot hang anybody, no matter how serious the crime.
"First, we shall have to go with legal framework and we have done it," he said.
Referring to an incident of early 1970s when he was a deputy minister for industrial development in the Indira Gandhi ministry, Mukherjee said political compulsions generally give rise to corruption and black money.
"In my younger days being overwhelmed by these types of sentiments, I conducted some raids. It was a very fruitful raid," he said, hitting back on opposition leaders who accused the finance minister of going soft on black money issue.
"One tonne primary gold was discovered. But later on with the change of government, I was accused of causing emergency excesses and put in the dock," he added.
Meanwhile, a court Friday granted conditional bail to Hasan Ali Khan, accused of stashing away $8 billion in foreign banks. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has failed to establish a case of money laundering against him, the court said.