'Germany has given tax evaders' details to India'
Assuring the Supreme Court that it was trying to retrieve black money stashed in tax havens abroad, the government Saturday said it has already received information from Germany on Indian money in a tax haven and income-tax sleuths were following up the matter.
The finance ministry revealed this in a 27-page affidavit submitted to the apex court in response to a lawsuit accusing the Congress-led government of doing precious little to retrieve Indian black money stashed abroad, worth an estimated Rs.70 trillion.
In its affidavit, the government also told the court that after persistent efforts in collaboration with international community Switzerland agreed to make its secretive banking laws and norms more transparent in tune with the global standards.
Priya V.K. Singh, director of the department of revenue under the finance ministry, told the court that following its repeated efforts since Feb 27 last year, the government got the information on Indians having with secret accounts in LGT Bank in Liechtenstein March 18 this year.
The government, however, added in its affidavit that the information procured cannot be made public owing to the condition of strict confidentiality under which it was procured.
"On account of persistent follow-up by the government, the German government provided the information (about Indians having secret bank accounts) on March 18, 2009," said the affidavit.
The move followed a media report in February 2008 that a former employee of the bank in Liechtenstein had sold data on about 1,400 account holders to tax authorities across the world.
"The said information, however, was made available on the condition of strict confidentiality of contents under the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement," it added.
"The information received from the German authorities has been forwarded to various taxation authorities concerned for action" under the tax laws and tax authorities have initiated action, said the affidavit.
Responding to the allegation in the lawsuit that the government had done nothing to retrieve "black money" of Pune resident Hasan Ali Khan and his associate Kashinath Tapuria stashed in UBS Bank of Switzerland, the affidavit said the government has already approached Swiss authorities for information.
The affidavit said though the Swiss authorities have already acceded to the international community's plea for greater transparency in banking operations there, they are yet to implement it through changes in their internal laws.
As a result, India is yet to procure any significant information from Swiss authorities about Khan's accounts.
The affidavit said that the income tax department, on the basis of evidence gathered during its probe, has raised a demand of tax worth over Rs.718 billion against Khan, his wife and their associates.
The government said that the Enforcement Directorate is also proceeding independently against them for flouting the financial laws.
Questioning the timing and notice behind the filing of the lawsuit, the government affidavit sought its dismissal saying that it was politically motivated as it came during elections and had been filed by people either close to or belonging to the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The lawsuit was filed by former law minister Ram Jethmalani, former Lok Sabha general secretary Subhash C. Kashyap and former Punjab police chief K.P.S. Gill.
The government also pointed out that the issue of retrieving black money stashed abroad is in the realm of international law and diplomacy and beyond the ambit of judicial review.
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