The Indian government has started proceedings against citizens who have stashed away ill-gotten money abroad, with a Special Investigating Team (SIT) looking at how to get it back, finance minister Arun Jaitley said in parliament on Friday.
"We are in the process of communicating to the Swiss authorities. Whatever is possible within the parametres of law, we will do," the finance minister said in the Lok Sabha, the lower house, during question hour.
"Tax proceedings have begun," he said, replying to a question posed by Anurag Thakur, a fellow lawmaker of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He said the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had nothing to hide on this.
He said the accounts in question had been opened overseas without seeking any permission from the Reserve Bank of India.
"There is a difference between legal and illegal foreign accounts. It is in regard to these accounts, which are being illegally kept, that we are seeking cooperation," Jaitley said referring to exchange of information with the Swiss authorities.
"Evidence will come only with the cooperation of countries where the accounts are kept," he said, adding that India was alerted about such accounts by the French government.
"They had got a list of names of people who have accounts in the Swiss bank. This data didn't reach the French government through any official route. This data was taken by someone from the HSBC Bank and handed over to the French government," he said.
"As far as the Swiss account money is concerned, whatever information our government has got we are investing all those," he said and added that a Special Investigating Team has been set up to look into the matter, as required by the Supreme Court in July 2011.
"SIT has been provided all the details it wanted. There was a media report that Swiss authority is eager to share other names in the matter as well. We wrote on June 23 to the Swiss authorities but they said the media report was unauthorised," Jaitley said.
"As far as the present government is concerned, there is nothing to hide. This issue has been on for some time. We have taken it with some intensity. The Swiss law is important on this. We are keeping a close watch on changes being discussed in that country."
Although there are no official estimates of the ill-gotten money stashed away by Indian citizens in tax havens overseas, various studies, including the one cited by a senior BJP leader, value it at between $462 billion and $1.4 trillion.