The Honest Truth

One of my favourite columnist, Ajit Dayal from Equitymaster writes a regular post called “The Honest Truth”.   With little anecdotes and stories, he decodes the complex world of money and finance.  This week’s article harps on the thousands of crores of illegal money stashed in the tax havens worldwide by corrupt Indian politicians and businessmen.

Ajit writes about an imaginary future where the Indian Finance Minister writes to all the bank CEOs, CFOs, Chairmen etc to repatriate the money that they have helped save in their tax havens in countries like Bermuda, Channel Islands, Dubai, Hong Kong, Lichtenstein, Singapore, and Switzerland.

Letter to: All Banks in Hong Kong, Singapore, UAE, UK, USA,

Dear mostly-overpaid CEO:

As you are aware, there are a lot of Indians with a lot of “black” money.
You see them when they visit your art-infested offices or when your mostly-overpaid relationship managers wine and dine them to the tune of “hum kale hain to kya hua, dilwale hain”.

Some of this “black” wealth that they have earned – on which they have not paid any taxes – lies in your bank. It may be in a branch at your head office, or it could be deposited in one of the branches that you have so conveniently set up in countries and jurisdictions which allow you global thugs to indulge in legal theft.
Countries like Bermuda, Channel Islands, Dubai, Hong Kong, Lichtenstein, Singapore, and Switzerland are some of your favourite hiding holes.

We recognise that there are millions of persons of Indian origin who have bank accounts with you because they legitimately work outside India and use these legitimate bank accounts with you to pay their grocery bills and live their daily lives. This letter is not intended to question your relationship with them.

We are interested in accounts which have the following characteristics:

1. they belong to a holder of an Indian passport,
2. who shows his or her residence to be in India,
3. or, if the first two points are not true, where the signing authority over any individual, trust, or corporate account is held by someone with the above two qualifications.

To make your life easier, I am attaching a list of:

1. all Members of Parliament and Members of the Legislative Assemblies in India since 1950 – and the names of their spouses, children, brothers, sisters, and in-laws,
2. the names of the Top 1,000 founders of companies in India – just as an aside we call them “promoters” because most of them promote the corrupt habits of our politicians and bureaucrats
3. the name of the bureaucrats – and their family members – who have had senior decision-making positions at the federal/central and state government levels since 1950,

This list, enclosed in the attached box, is also being published in the newspapers in India. In no way are we suggesting that all – or any – of the people in this list are corrupt or have illegal wealth. But it is a starting point and shows the seriousness of our desire to get some results. Any person named on this list will still enjoy all the travel benefits and other rights as a citizen of India.

In case your bank decides not to cooperate with us, we will ensure that any assets you own in India will be seized and taken over by the Government of India. Till this investigation is completed, there will be a temporary ban on any sales of your shareholdings and other assets in India.

And, since most of your management have been bred on the philosophy of greed and rewards, we will carry on that tradition to ensure that we get your full cooperation in this matter of national importance.
For every account that your bank helps us identify as a haven for “black” money, we will pay you a fee of 2% for helping us find it.
And we will ensure that your bank gets a license to operate in India as a 100% owned subsidiary to tap the growing banking opportunities in India.

Needless to say, you will be regulated by a proper regulator – the venerable Reserve Bank of India – and not by some tin-pot regulators like the SEC in USA and the SIB in UK that have fallen asleep on the job.
But that should not worry you – there are so many ways to make money without compromising on ethics.

Thank you for your support and, if you need any clarifications, please do not hesitate to call me directly on my mobile.

With regards,

The Finance Minister of India.

P.S.: you will see that my name is missing from the list, and the name of a few other very well known people. Let’s keep it that way. I will discuss with you when we next meet in Davos, Switzerland. Ssshhh till then.

To read the archives of Ajit’s Honest Truth, click here.

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