India's efforts to crack down on black money stashed abroad got a major boost on Sunday, with Switzerland readying a list of Indians suspected to have un-taxed money in Swiss banks, while the Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted by Indian government promised action if any illegality was found.
The development comes at a time when the official data published by Switzerland's central bank, SNB, has shown that Indian money in various Swiss banks rose by 43 per cent during 2013 to close to Rs 14,000 crore, while including the money held directly by Indian clients and those through fiduciaries or wealth managers.
The Swiss official said that these funds might not necessarily be illicit funds as these clients have themselves declared to be Indians.
He also dismissed claims about Indians having trillions of dollars of black money in Swiss banks, saying that the total size of foreign money from across the world in all 283 banks operating in Switzerland stands at just about USD 1.6 trillion.
Justice Shah also said that "it is not a list of only black money. It is a list of those persons who are also legally vested. It is a combined list. We are asking for the list of the said persons. Then we will verify. Then action is taken."
"If it is legal we cannot do anything, If it is illegal or unaccounted money then we take action. It depends on which manner the amount is deposited," he added.
The Swiss government official also said that Switzerland is looking forward to working with the new government in India and it will also extend all possible support to the SIT on black money.
Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, who has been a petitioner in Supreme Court in the black money case, said from London, "I am very happy and feeling relaxed today and I am hopeful that the NDA government will take the fullest possible advantage of this information.
"So much of wealth is stolen from India and they will be punished. The money will be used to eradicate poverty and all other ills of the society."
AAP leader and senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan said that SIT was formed on the orders of the Supreme Court, so government need not take credit for this.
"And if Swiss government will share any formation that is a welcome step. But government must stop illicit flow of money into such instruments such as p-notes and the money into the companies which are registered in tax havens," he told reporters in Delhi.
While declining to be named, as he is not authorised to speak to media, the Swiss official further said the details are being shared with India on a 'spontaneous' basis and are different from the information sought earlier by the Indian authorities on the basis of 'leaked' or 'stolen' lists of certain banks, including the so-called 'HSBC list'.
Swiss government has been refusing to share details about
the Indians named in this 'HSBC list', which was stolen by a bank employee and later found its way to tax authorities in various countries including India.
Despite repeated requests from India, Switzerland has said its local laws prohibit administrative assistance in matters where information has been sourced illegally, including through stolen lists.
The said 'HSBC list' allegedly contains names of Indians and other foreign nationals having ill-gotten wealth in Swiss unit of the global banking major.
India is one of the 36 countries with which Switzerland has signed treaties to provide administrative assistance in tax matters in accordance with international standards.