Ministry of Finance has decided that a team of senior officials will hold bilateral meetings with foreign jurisdictions to quicken the recovery of black money. The ministry took this decision after consulting with the Special Investigation Team set up to investigate on the black money issue.
A senior official of the Finance Ministry told PTI, “The step is aimed to cut down on the time taken in paper-based documentation and communication in cases of illegal funds stashed abroad.”
“A team of senior officials drawn from the Ministry and its various field formations will hold meetings and put across requests related to probe in these cases right on the discussion table. The required sanctions in this regard have been obtained from the government,” he added.
PTI reported that a note prepared by the Central Board of Direct Taxes stated, “These bilateral meetings will help India in making targeted and specific requests for information and to understand the problems, if any, which prevent them in providing the information, and to examine how the same can be addressed.”
Reportedly, three such meetings have already taken place and about half-a-dozen more are lined up this year, including one with the European Union.
According to PTI, as a part of the measures to deal with the black money issue, investigators have also received a new dossier on tax-related business information on about a dozen entities whose names were reported by an international group of investigative journalists sometime back.
A strong inflow of foreign funds and benign oil prices have strengthened the Indian currency but what has worked best for the rupee is the fading impact of war hysteria. Experts now see a chance for the RBI to recoup the reserves it spent in 2018 defending the rupee.
Putting a number to this, Gurang Somaiya, currency analyst at Motilal Oswal, said: “It is possible that RBI may limit some of the appreciation and recoup some of its lost reserves… but it may only come if the rupee strengthens to around Rs 68.20 a dollar.”
Explaining the factors at play, Anindya Banerjee, Deputy Vice President for Currency and Interest Rates with Kotak Securities, said: “Post-Abhinandan (shooting down of the IAF pilot), geopolitical risk has subsided which has boosted investor sentiments.”
Banerjee added that the gains of the rupee will help the Reserve Bank of India recoup reserves which it lost last year in a bid to arrest its fall.
“The rupee appreciated and closed at 70.14 for the last week on the back of strong flows and fading impact of war hysteria,” said Sajal Gupta, Head Forex and Rates, Edelweiss Securities.
In addition, Gupta said that some “big flows are lined up next week. Maybe Arcelor Mittal money can hit the Indian markets which can lead to some more appreciation towards 69.50 unless the RBI intervenes”.
However, the rising dollar index is causing nervousness and any breakout may lead to a reversal in the rupee’s trend, said Gupta. Somaiya said that RBI may choose not to intervene as the central bank’s prime aim was to arrest volatility.
“Yes the rupee is inching below the 70-a-dollar mark but then the (general) election can cause massive volatility. Also, it is seen that a lot of central banks are getting into a dovish stance owing to the fears of global slowdown.”
The RBI had to stop the slump in the rupee late last year after it touched an all-time high of 74.47 on October 11 following the rising crude oil prices.
The Brent Crude touched $86-a-barrel mark in early October but started to ease following the US decision to exempt 8 countries, including India and China, to continue buying oil for six months from Iran despite sanctions.
The decline in crude oil, which accounts for a large import bill for India, directly affects the exchange rates.
A major factor supporting the rupee is the strong prospect of better fund flows from abroad.
“Inflows into India have clearly turned positive since the end of January. The flows in February at Rs 17,720 crore is the highest since November 2017. The trigger for this inflows is the dovish statement that came from the Fed at the end of January,” said V.K. Vijayakumar, Chief Investment Strategist at Geojit Financial Services.
India’s foreign exchange reserves stood at $401.78 billion as against $393.13 billion in November last year. As the data suggests, with improving macros, the forex is already on the recovery path. (IANS)
In a choppy week’s trade, the Indian currency weakened against the US dollar to close above the 71 a dollar mark on Friday, owing to a sharp rise in crude oil prices, turmoil in the equity markets and uncertainty around the US-China trade relations.
In what could translate into further trouble for the domestic currency, analysts see an upward move of 6 to 7 per cent in the Brent crude prices in the coming week.
The rupee lost heavily towards the end of the week – over 70 paise in the last three trading session – as traders reacted to the sanction on Venezuela and production cut by OPEC and Saudi Arabia.
Sajal Gupta, Head Fx & Rates Edelweiss, said “technically … crude now looks set for another 6-7 per cent rise” which would mean that the rupee was likely to depreciate further in the coming sessions. “And if Rs 71.80 per dollar is broken, we can head towards Rs 72.50 mark.”
Among other factors impacting the currency, Gupta said, with crude and dollar index giving breakout, rupee would remain under pressure. Trade deficit data released on Friday post market was also not very encouraging with monthly deficit touching almost 15 billion dollars.
“Political tensions would also remain heightened with key leaders vowing strong retaliation in wake of the biggest terror attack in the Kashmir valley.”
Explaining the factors which has caused volatility, Anindya Banerjee of Kotak said the currency markets largely depend on the capital flows … and right now the fear of a possible retaliation by the government in response to the Pulwama attack is having an affect.
“The context of the whole event is also important because (Lok Sabha) elections are around the corner,” Banerjee said.
Also, the currency losing against the dollar and rising crude oil prices was a double whammy for the bond markets, he added.
On the global front, discussing the factors affecting the currency, Banerjee said, the Chinese economy was very fragile right now and moreover investors were looking for developments in the US-China trade talks.
However, Gurang Somaiya, currency analyst, Motilal Oswal, felt that the rupee was protected from any major weakness as “Foreign Institutional Investment (FII’s) came around good”, especially in February.
According to data from the bourses, FII has seen inflows worth Rs 1,096 crore in February.
India on Friday revoked the Most Favoured Nation Status (MNS) of Pakistan and has warned that more stern actions will follow the attack in Pulwama. Additionally, equity markets have declined for 6 straight sessions showing weak investor sentiments. (IANS)
Last week, the political climate was charged with accusations that the government had actually begun encouraging the promotion of black money. Prima facie, the charges seemed to have some merit in them. Swiss bank deposits from India had swelled by 50%, one of the largest increases in recent times. But the accusation was a bit uncharitable. For three specific reasons.
First, even though the percentages seem high, the total amounts involved in Indian deposits with Swiss banks are not. At CHF 1.02 billion – even after accounting for the 50% jump – the amount is significantly lower than the CHF 6.46 billion in 2006 when the UPA was in power. In fact, Indian deposits with Swiss banks had been declining for the past three years – right from 2014 when Prime Minister Modi formed his government. It was only last year that the trend was broken and Swiss deposits began climbing again.
The second reason was that Indian deposits with Swiss banks account for just 0.07% of global deposits with Swiss Banks. That is one of the lowest levels ever during the last decade, overshadowed by an even lower share of 0.05% in 2017. At such percentages, India’s deposits with Swiss Banks are not much to rant and rail about.
There is a third reason why people who are tracking black money should not be looking at Swiss Banks. True, they were the best shelter for clandestine money in the past. But Switzerland has entered into several bilateral treaties for making disclosures about bank deposits to requesting states. That includes a treaty with India to provide real-time information with regard to Indians from January 2019. Obviously, any Indian who wants to stash away black money will not do so with Swiss Banks, because he would stand exposed.
There could, thus, be one credible explanation for the quantum of deposits in Swiss Banks going up. It could be found in the government’s decision to ram through amendments to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCRA) in March this year.
which seeks to exempt political parties from disclosing their source of funds from overseas. The courts had earlier demanded that political parties make these disclosures and the government thought it wiser to try and change the law instead. This move is now being challenged before the Supreme Court as being unconstitutional by public spirited persons like EAS Sarma. The decision of the court is still awaited. The amendment to the FCRA technically permits politically connected parties to put their money back with Swiss Banks where it is safer than in tax havens with not-so-unblemished a banking record. If this explanation is correct, one could say that the government, in collusion with all other political parties (all have kept quiet about these amendments), are responsible for the spurt in Swiss deposits.
As mentioned in these columns earlier, if people want to look for black money, they should first demand a full fledged investigation into the agriculture income disclosures before the tax authorities during 2011 and 2012. What makes those disclosures horrifying is (a) they were larger than ever before; (b) the cumulative value of disclosures during the two years was a mind-boggling Rs 874 lakh crore (Rs 874 trillion); (c) the cumulative value of disclosures was eight times India’s GVA for 2013, and almost 100 times the total tax collected in that year.
It can be found in the decision of the enforcement authorities of not auctioning off properties they have seized in the past – irrespective of whether they relate to the NSEL Scam or the politicians who are being investigated for corruption (on extremely narrow charges). Attachment of properties makes for big news, full of sound and fury. But the refusal to auction them off points to collusion.
It can be found in the files of scores of senior officials who were suspended, when fraud was discovered, and then reinstated when public memory died. It can also be found in the files that routinely get burnt in fires that take place at government offices – possibly aimed at making evidence disappear – especially when it comes to corrupt deals and land development scams.
But these are things politicians do not like to talk about. Many of them are collusive partners in the generation of black money. Their silence in permitting the amendments to the FCRA is ample proof of their willingness to allow a cover-up. The rantings and ravings against Swiss Banks are, therefore, of no consequence. (IANS)