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No info shared yet, open to working with India: Swiss

Says resolution to the issue could only be found within the legal frameworks

Nayanima Basu & Vrishti Beniwal  |  New Delhi 

Arun Jaitley

A day after Switzerland was reported to be sharing information on Indians with unaccounted money in its banks, the Swiss finance ministry on Monday said no developments in this regard had taken place since February, when a delegation from that country had met its Indian counterpart. India, on its part, said it hadn’t received any official communication on sharing such information yet.

“Since a high-level Swiss delegation met its India counterpart in New Delhi in February 2014, no further official meeting has taken place. There is no new development to be reported,” the Swiss finance ministry told Business Standard. It, however, added it was willing to work with the new government in India in its fight against tax evasion.

The Swiss ministry expressed hope India would understand any resolution to the issue could only be found within established national and international legal frameworks.

On Sunday, Press Trust of India had quoted an unnamed Swiss official as saying his country was readying a list of Indians suspected to have un-taxed money in Swiss banks and the list would be shared with India.

On Monday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, “We are yet to receive official communication in this regard…We are writing to the Swiss authorities today so that details with regard to whatever information the authorities have can be expedited.” Cooperation with the Swiss authorities could yield fruitful results, he added.

In a letter to former finance minister P Chidambaram, Swiss authorities had said once a new law was enacted in that country by July, they would be able to share the details of secret bank accounts with India and other countries without the permission of account holders.

On Monday, the federal council of Switzerland, however, said it has “resolved to bring the revised Tax Administrative Assistance Act into force on August 1, 2014.”

Even the revised Act will provide only partial relief to the Indian government, as Switzerland hasn’t yet relented to providing information on stolen data pertaining to HSBC Geneva. The Swiss government has been refusing to share details about Indians named in the “HSBC list”, which was stolen by a French bank employee and which later found its way to tax authorities in various countries, including India.

Despite repeated requests from India, Switzerland has said its local laws prohibit administrative assistance in matters in which information has been sourced illegally, including through stolen lists.

The “HSBC list” allegedly contains the names of Indians and other foreign nationals with ill-gotten wealth in the global banking major’s Swiss unit.

India is one of the 36 countries with which Switzerland has signed treaties to provide administrative assistance in tax matters, in accordance with international standards.

On Sunday, a Swiss official had said Indians were suspected to have untaxed money in Swiss banks through structures such as trusts, domiciliary companies and other legal entities based out of foreign countries.

This comes at a time when official data published by SNB, Switzerland’s central bank, show Indian money in various Swiss banks rose 43 per cent to Rs 14,000 crore in 2013, including the money held directly by Indian clients and through fiduciaries or wealth managers.

The Swiss official had said these funds might not necessarily be illicit, as the clients had declared themselves to be Indians.

First Published: Tue, June 24 2014. 00:50 IST