|Shades of grey|
|Friday, 21 January 2011 00:00|
LK Advani has to be a very happy man, not just because the Congress is on the backfoot on the corruption issue, but also because the Supreme Court has vindicated his stand on the black money issue. Quoting from the Global Financial Integrity report on black money, Advani said he would bring back Rs 25 lakh crore of black money held in tax havens abroad—the upper end of the GFI study said $27.3 billion was salted away by Indians each year. In response to a PIL on black money held by Indians in European banks, the Supreme Court asked the government why it wasn’t disclosing names of Indian account holders. Government counsel Gopal Subramaniam said the government knew the names of 26 account holders in the Liechtenstein banks—the Court was not impressed with the government stance that international treaties forbade it from revealing the names.
Whether the government can reveal the names, or whether all of this will be made redundant once a WikiLeaks gets such information, is not the real point here. The real point is not even whether the figure is correct—in 2009, when Advani first publicised the figure, Jairam Ramesh quoted the same GFI report to show that Advani was distorting the facts. The GFI, in turn, said Jairam Ramesh had got it wrong—turns out the $4.7 billion figure Jairam Ramesh was quoting was also from the GFI report, only it was based on the World Bank methodology! Other issues include the question of whether this money is coming back into the country via the Mauritius route. This begs the question why, when it was in power, didn’t the BJP do anything to close the Mauritius route. Let’s assume, purely for argument’s sake, that the government is able to get the names from various Swiss banks, though getting names isn’t that easy. What then? How does the government get the black money back unless it proves these are the proceeds from a crime in India? Even all the evidence produced so far, including in a well-documented CAG report, has not convinced the government a crime has been committed in the allocation of 2G licences by A Raja! The chances of proving criminality for money in Swiss banks is truly remote.