Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday briefed the Prime Minister and the union cabinet about black money stashed away in secret accounts abroad.
The government, however, said the information cannot be made public as it was bound by international treaties. Mukherjee said he would soon hold a press conference to clear the air on the issue.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday had pulled up the government for witholding information on black money stashed in foreign banks, saying it is not just limited to tax evasion but is a “mind boggling crime” amounting to “theft” and “plunder” of national wealth having security ramifications.
The Supreme Court said it was unhappy that the government filed an affidavit restricting information relating to the money deposited by 26 people in Liechtenstein Bank in Germany.
Last year, India and Switzerland signed a revised double taxation treaty to allow exchange of information.
“While we cannot ask these banks to tell us about the total amount of money belonging to Indians in their banks, we can request them for names in specific cases,” the official said.
“This is in accordance with international standards and also what Switzerland has agreed with all other countries, including the US.”
In 2009, UBS, one of Switzerland’s largest banks, admitted to helping US taxpayers hide accounts from the Internal Revenue Service.
It agreed to provide identities and account information of 4,450 additional UBS customers.
Accordingly, UBS entered into deferred prosecution agreement with the US under which it promised to disclose identity and information for certain United States customers of UBS’s cross border business.
“The basis of such agreement between UBS and the US government was the detection of illegal activity of UBS in helping the US taxpayers hide accounts from its tax administration,” the official said.
“No such activity by any Swiss Bank in India has come to our notice so far.”