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Switzerland's gold exports to India crossed Rs 1.2 lakh crore in 2014 even as concerns persist over bullion being used to channel illicit funds into the Indian shores. The value of precious metal imported from Switzerland touched 17.1 billion Swiss francs (over Rs 1.2 lakh crore) during the 11-month period from January till November end in 2014, according to Swiss government. Last November alone saw import of bullion worth over 2.9 billion Swiss francs (around Rs 20,000 crore) from Switzerland. In the preceding month too, gold exports from the Alpine nation remained at similar levels, latest data from the Swiss Customs Administration showed. More than 457 kilograms of gold was exported from the Alpine nation to India during January-November 2014 period. At the end of November 2014, India remained the biggest destination for gold exports from Switzerland. According to latest figures from the Indian government, gold imports surged over six-fold to USD 5.61 billion (over Rs 35,000 crore) in November. The spike was primarily attributed to increased demand during marriage and festival season as well as easing of import curbs in November.
Gold imports jumped 280 per cent to USD 4.17 billion in October. In September as well, the imports zoomed to USD 3.75 billion. An analysis of numbers from both countries reveal that Switzerland accounted for over 60 per cent of gold imported by India. Swiss government started publishing trade data monthly from 2014 and included information on trade partners. Data on imports and exports of gold, silver and coins was available on quarterly frequency as a separate product up to 2013 but data by trade partner was not available. There are concerns that gold is used for 'layering' purposes to move funds from Swiss shores amid crackdown on illicit fund flows. A new strategy of 'layering' through gold and diamond trade came to light last year at Swiss banks to thwart any attempt for identification of real beneficiaries of funds entrusted with them, government and banking sources had said. There is a growing suspicion that a portion of gold and diamond trade is being used to route funds from Swiss banks to India and other destinations. 'Layering' is a key stage in money laundering and involves moving illicit funds around financial system through a complex series of deals to complicate the paper trail. The Indian government has been making efforts to curb the black money menace and bring back illicit wealth stashed by its citizens in foreign jurisdictions, including Switzerland.