Finance minister Arun Jaitley said on Friday that Switzerland has agreed to share information on Indians’ bank accounts on independent evidence provided in each case, marking a major step in efforts to secure data from the Alpine nation, known for its banking secrecy laws.
Besides, the Swiss government would “confirm the genuineness or otherwise” details of foreign accounts of Indian citizens procured by intelligence agencies, Jaitley said.
The grey areas in recovering black money
"The Government of India is taking all necessary steps to access tax-related information from foreign governments...Black money stashed abroad will be brought back,” he said.
Jaitley said Switzerland has agreed to share information related to HSBC and Liechestein lists of account holders, provided there is independent evidence collected by Indian authorities.
The breakthrough came after a string of parleys between a three-member official team headed by revenue secretary Shaktikanta Das in Switzerland.
“Switzerland has indicated willingness to provide information in respect of cases where investigations have been carried out by our income tax (I-T) department independently from what Swiss Government considers as stolen data,” a finance ministry statement said.
This development is very significant because there are a number of cases of account holders included in a list of HSBC bank account holders, which were investigated by the I-T department.
“Earlier, the Swiss Government had not agreed to provide any information on names which were included in the HSBC list on the ground that these were stolen data and have been obtained in breach of Swiss law,” the statement said.
The Finance Minister also said that government will make public the names of people who have illicit wealth in offshore accounts once formal charges are framed.
"We have no difficulty in making the names public," Jaitley said, adding that it was constrained in making the disclosures due to a double taxation pact signed by the then Congress government with Germany in 1995.
India and Switzerland have also agreed to discuss an agreement for automatic exchange of tax information.
"We only have a list of names and we wanted details of those accounts. A breakthrough was reached that in cases where there is independent investigation in India and evidence is collected in India, those details in relation to those accounts will be provided even if those accounts are on the HSBC list. So that absolute prohibition which the Swiss have imposed no longer exists," the finance minister said.
"Perhaps the details which so far have eluded us would certainly come to us".
Indian and Swiss governments have been in talks for the past few years on the matter of alleged black money parked by Indian citizens in banks in Switzerland.
As per Swiss National Bank's latest data, the total money held by Indians in Swiss banks stood at over Rs 14,000 crore as on December 2013, up by nearly 42% from a year ago.