Day 1: Modi govt sets up SIT to trace black money

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Prime minister Narendra Modi hit the ground running on Day One with his first step towards unraveling the black money stashed away abroad that reportedly runs into billions of dollars.

At the first cabinet meeting presided over by Modi, the NDA government decided to set up a high-powered special investigation team (SIT) to track and unearth black money. Retired Supreme Court judge MB Shaw will head the team, that will comprise officials from the departments of revenue, revenue intelligence and other agencies.

Immediately after the cabinet meeting, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad confirmed to newsmen that the SIT had been constituted.

There have been different estimates on the quantum of black money held by Indians abroad, ranging from $500 billion to $1,400 billion.

A study by Global Financial Integrity estimated the illicit money outflow at $462 billion.

Unearthing black money and bringing it back to India was a major poll plank of the BJP, which carried a virulent campaign under Modi’s leadership against the erstwhile UPA government besieged by scandals.

Other members in the panel include a deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), chairperson of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), revenue secretary, chiefs of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and the Enforcement Directorate, and directors of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as well as Intelligence Bureau (IB).

On May 23, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre to set up a special investigation team to probe black money held by Indians in foreign banks. The court had also asked the then UPA government to safeguard all the documents given by Germany on Indians holding black money in accounts at LGT Bank, Liechtenstein.

Prominent lawyer Ram Jethmalani had raised a major issue on safety of the black money documents after a fire broke out in Shastri Bhavan as well as in the PMO within a short span of time.

Ravi Shankar Prasad said the cabinet decision ‘shows the commitment of the Modi government towards curbing black money'.

The BJP had repeatedly vowed to fight corruption and black money, with prime minister Narendra Modi himself referring to the issue in his speeches time and again.

The UPA government on April 29 disclosed the names and documents of 26 Indians, who allegedly had illicit money stashed abroad. Three public institutes — Delhi-based National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), National Council of Applied Economic Research (Ncaer) and National Institute of Financial Management (NIFM) — have been retained by the finance ministry to make an estimate on quantum of black money.

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