New Delhi: BJP Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) today zeroed in on former finance minister P. Chidambaram under whose tenure the government’s 80:20 gold import scheme was launched, alleging it was misused by jewellers including fugitive Mehul Choksi for money laundering, sources said.
The Revenue secretary and top officials of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) appeared before the PAC’s sub-committee headed by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey on Thursday.
In August 2013, the then UPA government had introduced the 80:20 rule, which said traders would be allowed to import gold only after they had exported 20 per cent of gold from their previous import. The rule was scrapped in November 2014 after the NDA came to power.
The members discussed a CAG report of 2016 which, they said, pointed out that the scheme resulted in a loss of over Rs 1 lakh crore to the exchequer, a source who was present at the meeting said on the condition of anonymity.
They also raised questions about then finance minister P. Chidambaram, under whose tenure the scheme was launched, and said even the CAG report had said to support the earning of one United States dollar (around Rs 60 then) for jewellers, the government had to bear the expenditure in the form of duty foregone of Rs 221.75.
The members also demanded that the finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India share all notings and details related to this gold import scheme with the panel.
The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General clearly indicated that the scheme was used by jewellers including Choksi for “round tripping of black money and money laundering”, Mr Dubey said at the meeting, claiming that it seemed P. Chidambaram was aware of this.
Through the process known as round tripping, black money that goes out of the country returns as white money.