New Delhi: Activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal on Friday claimed that several leading Indian businessmen had stashed crores of unaccounted money with Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. Ltd (HSBC) in Geneva, Switzerland. Kejriwal made the claims two weeks ahead of the launch of his political party.
Mint independently could not confirm the veracity of the allegations made by Kejriwal, who is leading a campaign called India Against Corruption (IAC). When asked about the basis of his allegations, Kejriwal said that he did not have any official documents to offer as proof and added that the information was sent to him in an “excel sheet”.
Kejriwal said that his “primary source” for his latest claim was a senior Congress party leader and other sources were from the finance ministry. He said he had “cross checked” the information with several people.
Kejriwal alleged that Mukesh Ambani, who heads Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), and his brother Anil Ambani, chairman of Reliance Group, had Rs.100 crore each in bank accounts at HSBC in Geneva. He alleged that while Naresh Kumar Goyal, promoter of Jet Airways, had Rs.80 crore in such accounts, three members of the Burman family of the Dabur group together had Rs.25 crore.
The Ambanis, Goyal and the Dabur group denied the allegations.
“Neither Reliance Industries Limited nor Mukesh Ambani have or had any illegitimate accounts anywhere in the world,” a statement by RIL said. “The continued tirade of baseless allegations being made by IAC (India Against Corruption) against us appears to be instigated by vested interests.”
“Anil D. Ambani had no bank accounts with HSBC in Geneva,” a statement from his office said, adding that such “baseless allegations” were regrettable.
A statement from Goyal’s office said: “...there is no account in the name of Naresh Goyal in the Swiss bank as has been alleged. Besides, Naresh Goyal has been an NRI (non-resident Indian) since January 1991. He is entitled to have bank accounts outside India. The suggestion that there has been any unaccounted money stashed away in Swiss accounts is entirely false.”
The Dabur group too similarly denied the allegations saying that Burman family members were “legally” allowed to open such accounts.
“We wish to state that these accounts were opened by the Burman family members when they were NRIs, and were legally allowed to open such accounts. The amount being referred to in the media, pertaining to these accounts, has been officially remitted from India....it is unfortunate that every person having a foreign bank account is being painted with the same brush.”
While HSBC refused to comment on “specific details of allegations”, it said it remained committed to its investments and expanding its operations in the country. “The Bank cannot comment on the specific details of the allegations that have been made, which relate to issues in the past. HSBC takes compliance with the law, wherever it operates, very seriously,” it said.
Kejriwal demanded that raids be conducted against those named by him. “The most honest officials from the I-T department and Enforcement Directorate should be sent for the task,” he said.
In his allegations, Kejriwal also said that Annu Tandon, a parliamentarian of the ruling Congress party from Unnau in Uttar Pradesh, had Rs.125 crore stashed in such accounts. “They are malicious and I completely deny it,” Tandon told reporters.
“We do not comment on such unconfirmed and unsubstantiated issues,” Janardan Dwivedi, general secretary of the Congress party told reporters.
Suneera Tandon and Shauvik Ghosh in New Delhi and P.R. Sanjai and Dinesh Unnikrishnan in Mumbai contributed to this story.