Delhi HC questions Centre on powers of investigative body set up to probe Panama papers, Bahamas leaks

  • The Delhi High Court on Tuesday queried the Centre on the powers of the Multi-Agency Group set up to probe individuals, including politicians, named in the 'Bahamas leaks' and 'Panama papers leak'

  • These leaks revealed information regarding hundreds of thousands of offshore entities and their connections to companies and individuals in various countries

  • The MAG was initially set up in April 2016 by the Centre to investigate the Panama paper leaks

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday queried the Centre on the constitution and powers of the Multi-Agency Group (MAG) set up to probe the companies and individuals, including politicians, named in the 'Bahamas leaks' and 'Panama papers leak', and the progress made by it in its investigation.

 Delhi HC questions Centre on powers of investigative body set up to probe Panama papers, Bahamas leaks

Representational image. PTI

These leaks revealed information regarding hundreds of thousands of offshore entities and their connections to companies and individuals in various countries. The MAG was initially set up in April 2016 by the Centre to investigate the Panama paper leaks.

"What is this agency? They are working under which law? Who empowered what?" - these were the queries posed by a bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar to the lawyer representing the MAG.

The court issued a notice to the MAG and the finance ministry and sought their stand on a plea seeking investigation into complaints of money laundering and black money against a politician, and some of his associates, who allegedly received funds from companies named in the 'Bahamas leaks'.

The petition has been moved by Bhupendra Singh Patel who has made the complaints against the politician and some of his companies and associates in January this year. The petition alleges that the politician's companies received around Rs 18 crore from some Bahamian shell companies named in the leaks.

Patel has alleged "deliberate inaction" by the MAG and the central government in acting on the "gravely suspicious investments" made in Indian entities by some shell companies incorporated in the Bahamas and revealed in the leaks.

The petition has claimed that MAG, comprising officers from the tax department, RBI and other agencies, was formed to ensure speedy and coordinated probe into names revealed in the leaks.
After perusing the plea, the bench observed, "We doubt you (MAG) have moved forward an inch in the matter".

It directed the head of MAG to file an affidavit indicating under which authority it was functioning, its composition, its powers and jurisdiction and the progress made by it in its investigation into the leaks.

With the direction, the bench listed the matter for hearing on 22 October.

Bahamas leaks comprise of a cache of documents, released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), providing names of politicians, companies, and others linked to over 175,000 Bahamian companies registered between 1990 and 2016.

Patel, in his plea, has sought directions to MAG and the ministry to "take cognisance" of the allegations he has made in his complaints, carry out a "speedy probe" into them and "take consequential action".

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Updated Date: Oct 15, 2019 19:05:37 IST