New delhi: India would begin talks with Switzerland in December over amending a double-taxation agreement and was not interested in a “roving inquiry” over unaccounted money stashed in Swiss banks, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Tuesday.
Swiss authorities have agreed to discuss and begin negotiations on amending the agreement regarding exchange of information, Mukherjee said at a panel discussion telecast on ET Now business news channel. “That first round of talks will take place sometime in December,” the finance minister said.
No ‘roving inquiry’: Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee. Vijay Kumar Joshi / PTI
The Swiss Banks Association (SBA) had earlier said that Swiss law does not permit fishing expeditions, or indiscriminate trawling through bank accounts in the hope of finding something interesting.
“This means that India cannot simply throw its telephone book at Switzerland and ask if any of these people have a bank account here,” SBA head of international communications James Nason had told ‘PTI’ on Sunday.
“We are fully aware of (that) and we have no intention of having any roving inquiry,” Mukherjee said on Tuesday, adding that India would pursue the matter on the basis of specific information to help tax authorities nail defaulters.
Switzerland had last week reached an agreement with the US to give that country’s Internal Revenue Service details of 4,450 clients who Washington suspected of evading taxes.
Mukherjee said the government would use whatever information it gets from Swiss authorities, but added that they have “reiterated” that the “secrecy clause of Swiss banking” will be maintained.
“It was agreed that we should follow the model code of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in respect of taxations and exchange of information part. That we have agreed... We have (also) agreed to initiate for the amendment of the relevant clause on taxes where the exchange of information can take place,” Mukherjee said.