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New Delhi: Expressing concern that black money stashed in banks abroad might have originated from arms deals, drug trafficking and smuggling, the Supreme Court today asked the government as to what action it had taken against individuals and firms having foreign accounts.

A bench headed by Mr Justice B Sudarshan Reddy directed the government to file its response by next Thursday.

The court also sought replies from the government, the Reserve Bank of India and the Central vigilance commissioner on a petition seeking direction to the government to ratify a UN convention on corruption which would facilitate in bringing back black money from foreign banks.

Asking the government not to restrict its probe only to the tax evasion aspect, the bench told the government to go after the sources of black money.

“We want to know what steps you have taken against the people who have accumulated so much money in foreign banks. What are the sources of the money,” the Bench sought to know.

“These are people in the country who are amenable to the law. What action have you taken against them when you came to know that they have stashed money in foreign banks?

“What are the sources of the money? Where has the money come from? It might be because of arms deals, smuggling, narcotics, drug trafficking or something else. These are more serious issues, when you know the name, what action you have taken?” the Bench said.

“That is a serious matter which we are concerned about. You know the names, (you know) where the money is lying, still you are talking about double taxation issue,” the Bench said when solicitor-general Mr Gopal Subramanium submitted that the government was taking all actions under Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement against the people who had stashed money in foreign banks.

“Looking at the issue from the taxation point of view is just one aspect but there are other serious matters associated with the black money which we are concerned about,” the Bench said.

The government, however, submitted that it was taking action under international agreements and the law against the erring persons and it has no problems in sharing the information with the court. The solicitor-general said that many agencies were working on the case and investigation is going on.

Senior advocate Mr Anil Divan, appearing for petitioner and former Union law minister Mr Ram Jethmalani, accused the government of not being serious on the issue, saying that Pune-based businessman Mr Hassan Ali, facing probe for his foreign bank accounts, had fled the country.

The court, after hearing Divan, asked the government to find out whether Ali was present in the country or had left it. After hearing the arguments, the court posted the matter for further hearing on Thursday.

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