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India: Supreme Court Questions Government over Theft

(Feb. 7, 2011) Describing black money stashed abroad in foreign banks such as in Germany and Lichtenstein by Indians as “pure and simple theft of national money,” the Supreme Court of India, in a hearing on a petition filed by the former Law Minister, Ram Jethmalani, questioned the central government's approach in tackling the problem and retrieving the huge amount allegedly taken, about a trillion dollars. The Court, not convinced of the adequacy of the steps taken by the government when the Solicitor General of India submitted a list of 26 account holders abroad in a sealed envelope, asked whether that was all he had or if there were something more. The Court went on to state, in part responding to the Solicitor General's comment that information-sharing between countries depended on treaties in order for details of transactions to be shared: “[i]t is a plunder of the nation. … We are not on niceties of various treaties.” (J. Venkatesan, It's Plunder of the Nation, Says Supreme Court, THE HINDU (Jan. 20, 2011),; J. Venkatesan, “Why Limit Matter to Liechtenstein Bank?”, THE HINDU (Jan. 20, 2011),

Quoting the former National Security Adviser, M.K. Narayanam, who said that the money stashed away in such bank accounts might be linked to terrorism, Justice Reddy of the Supreme Court observed, “[t]his is the problem which is worrying us. It is not only about tax evasion [since the Government refused to take action on a plea that there was a treaty on avoidance of double taxation,] it has something more.” (It's Plunder of the Nation, Says Supreme Court, supra.) The petitioner's counsel stated that none of the individuals whose names were allegedly given by the German government had been proceeded against and that the Indian government was taking shelter under a double-taxation avoidance agreement with the male fide intention of concealing information from the public. The hearing continued on January 27, 2011. (“Why Limit Matter to Liechtenstein Bank?”, supra.)