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    Indian Elites Fight Back Against #PanamaPapers, Call Activity 'Legal'

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    Amid a raging debate in the Indian media and political mud-slinging over the Panama Papers, a Reserve Bank of India's report has pointed out that not all transactions highlighted in the Papers are illegal.

    Citing RBI's report on remittances, Indian Industries' apex body, ASSOCHAM (Associate Chambers of Commerce and Industry) partially dismissed the revelations made in the Panama Papers.

    ASSOCHAM Secretary General Mr. D. S. Rawat said, "Instead of seeing all the remittances abroad with a needle of suspicion in the context of the so-called Panama Papers, we must realize a fair amount of liberal foreign exchange regime is in operation and which is how it should be. Let Panama Papers noise not drown out legal overseas transactions." 

    The reports pointed out that in 2014-15 alone, as much as $1.32 billion was remitted out of India legally under the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS). As per the LRS an Indian resident is free to remit money abroad for a list of activities within a set limit.

    India's Minister of State for Finance, Jayant Sinha while talking to Sputnik said, "A multi-agency group has started its investigations into the Panama Papers revelations. Other investigation reports like that of HSBC and lists handed over by foreign tax authorities will also be considered in order to differentiate the legal from the illegal."

    The ASSOCHAM published a list of activities falling under the LRS. The activities include "gifts, studies abroad, maintenance of close relatives and investment in equity/debt."

    The LRS also allows individuals to acquire immovable property abroad to the tune of $2,500,000 per year, without prior approval. Besides, resident individuals can set up joint ventures (JV) and wholly owned subsidiaries (WOS) outside India for legitimate business activities within the overall limit of $2,500,000. It also allows purchase of expensive art. A resident individual can also invest in mutual funds, venture capital funds, unrated debt securities, promissory notes etc. Furthermore, the resident can invest in such securities out of the bank account opened abroad under the scheme. RBI data accessed by ASSOCHAM revealed that $1.32 billion was legally remitted out of India for these reasons. 

    The Panama Papers has named around 500 Indians, including celebrities and industrialists who have invested huge amounts of money in to offshore entities in Panama, considered a tax haven. A multi-agency group investigating the credibility of the accusations made in the Panama papers comprises of officials from the Reserve Bank of India, Information Technology department, Financial Intelligence Unit, Enforcement Directorate and Foreign Tax and Tax Research department. 

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    #PanamaPapers: Biggest Ever Offshore Leaks (94)

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