As India continues its pursuit of suspected black money stashed abroad, an international think-tank has ranked the country third globally with an estimated $94.76 billion (nearly Rs 6 lakh crore) illicit wealth outflows in 2012.
As a result, the cumulative illicit money moving out of the country over a ten-year period from 2003 to 2012 has risen to $439.59 billion (Rs 28 lakh crore), as per the latest estimates released by the Global Financial Integrity (GFI).
Russia is on the top with $ 122.86 billion, followed by China at the second position ($249.57 billion) in terms of the quantum of black money moving out of a country for 2012 --the latest year for which these estimates have been made.
The Washington-based research and advocacy group further said that the illicit fund outflows from India accounts for nearly 10 per cent of a record $991.2 billion worth illegal capital that moved out of all developing and emerging nations in 2012 to facilitate "crime, corruption, and tax evasion".
As per GFI's 2014 Annual Global Update on Illicit Financial Flows report, that the cumulative illicit outflows from developing economies for ten years between 2003 and 2012 stands at $6.6 trillion.
This includes $439.59 billion worth illicit money that has moved out of India in these ten years, putting the country at fourth position in overall ranking for a decade, after China ($ 1.25 trillion), Russia (973.86 billion) and Mexico ($514.26 billion).
In these ten years, an average of $43.96 billion of black money is being sent out of India every year, GFI said.
The estimate of these huge illegal money flow follows a Supreme Court-constituted Special Investigation Team (SIT) tracing Rs 4,479 crore in the accounts of Indians figuring in a list of account holders of HSBC's Geneva branch.
Besides, the SIT has also disclosed tracing unaccounted wealth worth Rs 14,958 crore within India, which are now being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax Department.
The issue of black money has been matter of a serious political debate in India, including during the last general elections. While the new government has said it is committed to tackle this menace, there are no official figures for the overall size of illicit wealth stashed by Indians within the country or abroad.
As per GFI estimates, the amount of illicit funds that moved out of India in 2012 was much lower than the same for neighbouring China, as also Russia.
These three countries are followed by Mexico at the fourth place ($59.66 billion) and Malaysia at fifth ($48.93 billion).
Authored by GFI chief economist Dev Kar and GFI Junior Economist Joseph Spanjers, the study further said that illicit financial flows of a record high $991.2 billion in 2012 marks a dramatic increase from 2003, when size of such funds stood at $297.4 billion.
Over the decade (2003-2012), the study found that illicit financial flows are growing at an inflation-adjusted average rate of 9.4 per cent per year.
However, in many parts of the world, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and in Sub-Saharan Africa, illicit flows are growing at an average annual inflation-adjusted rate of 24.2 and 13.2 per cent, respectively.
"As this report demonstrates, illicit financial flows are the most damaging economic problem plaguing the world's developing and emerging economies," GFI president Raymond Baker said.
"These outflows-already greater than the combined sum of all FDI and ODA flowing into these countries - are sapping roughly a trillion dollars per year from the world's poor and middle-income economies," he said.
However, the troubling fact is that these outflows are growing at an alarming rate of 9.4 per cent per year, which is twice as fast as global GDP, Baker noted.
According to him, it is simply impossible to achieve sustainable global development unless world leaders agree to address this issue head on.
"That's why it is essential for the United Nations to include a specific target next year to halve all trade-related illicit flows by 2030 as part of post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda," he said.