In a fresh setback to India's efforts to get details of the so-called HSBC list from Switzerland, the Swiss government on Wednesday pitched for better protection of bank client data and severe penalties for those violating the banking secrecy.
Switzerland government's apex executive body, the Federal Council, said in a statement that it supports a parliamentary initiative seeking severe punishment for those selling bank client data or benefitting from such activities.
In its pursuit to unearth the black money allegedly stashed by Indians in Swiss banks, Indian government has been seeking details for many months about over 700 accounts mentioned in ab 'HSBC list' of suspected tax dodgers.
Switzerland has been refusing to cooperate saying it was a 'stolen list' and its local laws do not allow any assistance in cases involving any criminality.
This list of Indians with accounts at HSBC branch in Switzerland was received by India from French government through a bilateral treaty between two countries. France had got hold of this list after data was stolen by a disgruntled HSBC employee in 2011 and those names eventually found their way to tax authorities across the world including India.
Subsequently, India wrote to Switzerland to get further details about these accounts, as these pertained to people suspected to have taxes in India.
However, repeated requests in this regard have been rejected by Switzerland on the pretext that the information was being sought on the basis of stolen data.
Advocating for better protection of bank client data, the Federal Council of Switzerland on Wednesday said it supports the proposals made by the Economic Affairs and Taxation Committee of the National Council (EATC-N) in this regard.
The Federal Council is the highest decision making body of the Swiss government. This seven-member executive council constitutes the federal government of Switzerland and serves as the Swiss collective head of state, while each Councillor heads one of the seven federal executive departments.
The Council said the parliamentary committee in its report "considers it unsatisfactory that people who pass on client data stolen from a financial institution or use it for their own benefit are not liable to prosecution.
"It thus recommends closing the existing loophole in the entire financial market sector. It should also now be possible to impose more severe penalties on whoever procures economic benefit from violating banking secrecy or the other professional confidentialities in the financial market sector."