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Cong not doing enough, deflecting black money issue, says Arun Shourie

Cong not doing enough, deflecting black money issue, says Arun Shourie

Author: PNS
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 20, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/170827/Cong-not-doing-enough-deflecting-black-money-issue-says-Arun-Shourie.html

Accusing the Congress of trying to deflect the issue of bringing back illegal money stashed in Swiss banks, the BJP on Sunday gave a point-by-point rebuttal to the Congress' charges against the party on the issue and blamed it for not doing enough despite the emergence of a national consensus on the matter.

Responding to Congress' charge that BJP prime ministerial candidate LK Advani was taking up the issue on the eve of elections to gain electoral benefit, the BJP said the former Deputy Prime Minister raised the issue in April last year by writing to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Addressing a media conference here on Sunday, BJP MP and former Union Minister Arun Shourie said, "The reply that the then Finance Minister (P Chidambaram) sent to him (Advani) showed that the Government intended to do little except keep going through the pretence of taking some steps."

Shourie further charged the Congress with not doing enough to bring back illegal money from the tax havens and said, "We were alarmed to learn that a senior official of the Finance Ministry had written to the then Indian Ambassador in Germany to not press the Germans for release of the names of Indians in the list that they had obtained from Liechtenstein….lest the Germans take offence and conclude that they were being pressurised and their bona fides were being questioned."

Adding on to the question of why raising the issue now, he said that a "unique" opportunity had arisen only now, after Western economies found themselves in a severe economic crisis.

The crisis has forced countries like Germany, France, USA and the UK to take the leadership role in G-20 and pledge to get their stolen wealth back from tax havens.

"The BJP believes that this is the right time for India to join the global effort to get its own stolen wealth back."

On the Congress' claim that G-20 meeting was not the proper forum for taking up the issue of illegal money in tax havens, the BJP leader said, if that was not the right forum how come the communiqué issued by the G-20 leaders on April 2 this year pledged "to take action against non-cooperative jurisdictions, including tax havens.

We stand ready to deploy sanctions to protect our public finances and financial systems. The era of banking secrecy is over."

"Can the Government which allowed Ottavio Quattrochhi, the Italian power broker who is the main accused in the Bofors scam, to take his money out of banks after it had been frozen be trusted to bring back the loot that is lying in Swiss banks and other tax havens? Can the Government which prostituted the CBI so that he (Quattrochhi) may get away from Argentina be trusted to bring the loot back?'' he said in response to the Congress' latest "cover up" of the issue by disputing the figures of deposits in the Swiss banks and other tax havens.

Accusing the Congress of replacing the harsh provisions of Foreign Exchange Regulation Act through Foreign Exchange Management Act, the BJP said that FEMA as approved in July 1998 was on the lines of a draft prepared under the leadership of preceding Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

Shourie also quoted an article contributed by Chidambaram in a national daily on August 25, 2002 to further prove the charge against Congress.

"FERA also became a tool of oppression. Successive Governments persisted with FERA and added COFEPOSA and SAFEMA. International markets do not respect draconian laws that run counter to common sense. India's reserves, far from being augmented, dwindled at an alarming rate….Mercifully, FERA was buried finally on May 31, 2000," Chidambaram had said in the August 2002 article.

On the Congress' claim that Advani was alerting those with illegal money abroad to take it away from Switzerland to other tax havens, Shourie asked, "Would the looters who've stashed away money in tax havens from India still need to be alerted after Germany got the names from Liechtenstein as long ago as last year?''

He further sought an answer from the Congress saying, "Would they still need to be alerted after Germany offered to furnish the names to Governments that asked for the names?

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