Home >Politics >Policy >Govt promises probe into new revelations on bank accounts

New Delhi: The government on Monday promised to investigate the hundreds of new cases of alleged illegal foreign bank accounts held by Indians in HSBC—disclosed in a list published by The Indian Express.

The newspaper published the names of 1,195 Indians and people of Indian origin with alleged accounts in HSBC Holding Plc’s Swiss private banking arm, including those of many prominent businessmen and political families. “Some new names have been revealed whose veracity would be checked by authorities," finance minister Arun Jaitley said, adding that some of the accounts could be legitimate.

The centre already has the names of 628 people and entities which were given by French authorities in 2011, of which prosecution has been launched in 60 cases for wilful attempt to evade taxes and failure to furnish accounts and documents.

Stressing that progress has been made in India’s efforts to procure more information from Swiss authorities on the basis of what the latter considers stolen data, Jaitley said Switzerland has agreed that admission by assessees would be considered additional evidence to seek details.

Bringing back black money hidden abroad was a key poll promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies at the general election.

The list released on Monday as part of a global list of account holders in HSBC’s Swiss arm includes Mukesh Ambani, chairman, Reliance Industries; Anil Ambani, chairman of Reliance Group; Naresh Goyal, chairman of Jet Airways; and Narayan Rane, former chief minister of Maharashtra.

Many of them have denied having illegitimate accounts.

“Neither Reliance Industries nor Mr Mukesh Ambani have or had any illegitimate bank accounts anywhere in the world," a Reliance Industries spokesperson said.

“Mr (Anil) Ambani does not have any HSBC overseas account," a Reliance Group spokesperson said.

A Jet Airways spokesperson said, “Mr Naresh Goyal is a Non Resident Indian and as an NRI he can have legitimate bank accounts anywhere in the world. Furthermore Mr Naresh Goyal is fully compliant with all his obligations to the tax jurisdictions in India and other countries."

“I would like to state clearly that neither my wife, my children nor myself have any foreign accounts or Swiss bank accounts," Rane was quoted by news agency Press Trust of India as saying. “These allegations have come up even in the past... we have nothing to do with it."

Of the 628 accounts holder names that the Indian government has, 200 were either non-residents or non-traceable, leaving 428 cases of residents, which are being pursued by the tax department; the amount involved in these cases is around 4,500 crore.

A government statement said that as of 31 December, 350 tax assessments were on while assessments had been completed and concealment penalty proceedings launched in 128 cases. In the remaining cases, assessment proceedings are at an advanced stage. “Remaining assessment would be completed by 31 March 2015," Jaitley said.

So far, undisclosed income of about 3,150 crore has been brought to tax on account of deposits made in undisclosed foreign bank accounts.

The centre is also in touch with the whistleblower who revealed the names of people holding undisclosed bank accounts in HSBC Switzerland; he has been requested to share information available with him in regard to undisclosed bank accounts of Indians in HSBC, Switzerland and other destinations, the statement added.

Fresh references for obtaining further information in more than 600 cases have been made to foreign jurisdictions, under available treaties and agreements, the statement said.

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