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No info on Swiss bank accounts, govt to CIC

delhi Updated: Jan 23, 2011 23:09 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
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Amid reports that Wikileaks may have details of Indian account holders in Swiss banks, the Indian government denied having any such information. Or this, atleast, is what it told the transparency watchdog — Central Information Commission — last week.

As per the Swiss Banking Association Report of 2008, India tops the list of countries with deposits in Swiss banks with US $1,891 billion, followed by Russia and China.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) told Information Commissioner Annapurna Dixit that there was no record of any list of Indians holding secret accounts in Swiss banks.

“No such information has been provided by the Switzerland government or any other body to the MEA,” said the ministry’s Public Information Officer Debraj Pradhan, in an oral submission before the Central Information Commission (CIC).

RTI applicant Pramod Chawla wanted to know whether the Swiss or German governments have provided details of secret accounts held by Indian nationals in Swiss banks and banks in Leichestenstein (a tiny, landlocked country between Switzerland and Austria, widely regarded as a low-tax haven).

The government told the Supreme Court this week that it has received names of some account holders in banks in Leichestenstein but refused to divulge them stating it was bound by an agreement with the government of Germany.

The government added that no such information was available with regard to secret accounts in Swiss banks by Indians and that it was re-negotiating the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement with the government of Switzerland to obtain such information. Following the oral submission, Dixit asked Pradhan to submit an affidavit stating that neither the list of the account holders nor any other information about such investigation, sought in the application, is available on record.

At the time the CIC was issuing the order, WikiLeaks got a disc containing the banking details of 2,000 prominent people with Swiss bank accounts, some of whom are also said to be Indians.

The disc was presented to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange by former Swiss banker Rudolf Elmer. Although Wikileaks is yet to publish details of the disc on its website, some television channels have released names of account holders similar to Indian names.

Dubious distinction

As per the Swiss Banking Association Report 2008, India tops the list of countries with deposits in Swiss banks:

India: $1,891 billion
Russia: $610 billion
China: $213 billion
UK: $210 billion
Ukraine: $140 billion
nRest of the world: $300 bn