Free Press Journal

Thin Dividing Line: India, Mauritius and Global Illicit financial flows by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Shinzani Jain- Review


Name of the book: Thin Dividing Line India, Mauritius and Global Illicit Financial Flows

Author: Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Shinzani Jain

Publisher: Penguin

Price: Rs. 599/-

Pages: XVIII + 282

A book on illicit financial flow, whose praise has been written by Rajdeep Sardesai, Jairam Ramesh and CEO of OXFAM India, will automatically get its positioning in the readers mind. It is said, ‘don’t judge the book by its cover’ in this case, it turns out that the book can be judged by the individuals who have written the praise of it or have sponsored it. Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA) and Christian Aid had sponsored the authors visit to Mauritius to study and make a film on flow of illicit money which gave birth to this book.

As per the website of CBGA, one of its many supporters is Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates co-founder of Microsoft, which according to an April 2017 report of OXFAM, parked $124 billion dollars in offshore tax heavens to avoid taxes. No wonder the book talks about Apple, American Airlines, Coca Cola, and Walmart etc. but not about Microsoft.

Christian Aid introduces itself as “A Christian organisation” and defines India as “It is hailed as the world’s largest democratic and an emerging global power, but the powerful interplay of caste, ethnicity, patriarchy and feudalism create deep-rooted divisions that deny equal rights and opportunities to all.”

Not surprising that the book talks about IPL Scam, Vodafone Saga, Stock Market Scams, Participatory Notes etc., but not about illegal money laundering in India by foreign NGOs. Since May 2014, many NGOs have been caught by the government for money laundering. These NGOs have been receiving funds in billion dollars every year. So the book is incomplete in terms of coverage of the subject it is set out to cover.

On top of it, there are major gaps in the cases covered in the book. In the chapter on IPL which is spread over ten pages, one can hear Gurunath Meiyappan screaming ‘why he has been left out from the coverage’.  Such major omissions destroy the credibility of the book.

The book has covered how less Sonia Gandhi led UPA did to stop the flow of illicit finance in India and how difficult it is for Narendra Modi government to control it. The authors quotes former economist Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s answer to his question about controlling flow of money from Mauritius, which in the authors word was “His reply to my loquacious questioning was terse: India should not do anything to harm relations with a friendly country.”  It has been pointed out that, one of the reasons of not upsetting Mauritius is that it might fall in the Chinese influence and destabilise the Indian Ocean. With the deft handling of the situation on 10 may 2016, India and Mauritius signed a protocol amending the 32-year-old convention. Authors fall short in complimenting the NDA government for the same.

Interestingly to criticise Narendra Modi’s government on black money recovery, authors have quoted election speech and dragged even Baba Ramdev, while have given the credit of fall in investment through dangerous P Notes to SEBI!!!

The book covers how defence chiefs in India and their families have been involved in scam and how the middle man involved in defence scams flourished till recently. It also sights how industry bodies are a hindrance to unearth black money within India.

Chapter ‘Tax Heavens Around The World’ might open eyes of those who believe every individual and every organisation based in Europe and America are honest and Indians must learn from them whatever they preach about charity, honesty, etc.

The book explains the fact that Tax Heavens are a curse to humanity at the same it explains the fact that Tax Heavens is a reality. A nation can’t escape it and only powerful nations can deal with it because they can arm twist tax heavens and institutions. India is yet to reach that stage because of political legacy, and also because as mentioned in the book “proportion of corrupt tax officers is relatively higher in India in comparison to the US”.

The book argues in favour of unearthing black money within India but neither praises or talks much about the demonetisation nor gives a solution for the same.

In the end, the book answers a few questions which it wanted to answer and raise a lot of other questions about the book itself. It has exhaustive notes section backed by index. The list of abbreviations given in the beginning is very helpful and the language is easy and will make the reader with non-finance background feel comfortable while reading the book.