The government will probe a new list of foreign bank accounts for possible tax evasion, finance minister Arun Jaitley said on Monday after an international body of journalists named several Indians with accounts in HSBC’s Switzerland branch.
The finance ministry also said that it was in touch with a whistle-blower – a former HSBC employee -- for more information on suspected black money stashed away by Indians in Switzerland and other destinations.
“Some new names have been revealed whose veracity would be checked by (the) authorities,” Jaitley told reporters in the wake of media reports which said that the 1,195 Indian names in the fresh HSBC list are nearly double the 628 names provided by the French government to India in 2011.
The fresh list – termed the ‘Swiss Leaks’ -- was published simultaneously in newspapers and news portals across the world by a consortium of journalists.
An official statement issued after Jaitley’s interaction with the media also spoke on similar lines.
“Some of these names already figure in the earlier list available with the government. Necessary investigation as per provisions of law will be taken up in all the new cases, expeditiously,” the statement added.
The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) also discussed the fresh list on Monday and felt there could be 100 new names in it.
In a statement, the HSBC admitted that “in some cases individuals took advantage of bank secrecy to hold undeclared accounts….We acknowledge and are accountable for past compliance and control failures.”
The Swiss government, however, said that the new list was from “stolen data”, an assertion that might make it difficult for India to get details on these accounts without any additional evidence.
“The published information is based on the known list with stolen data of the years 2007 and earlier,” PTI quoted a Swiss government spokesperson as saying over phone from Berne.