Home/ Politics / Policy/  Black money trail: No list of Indians holding assets in Swiss banks, says Arun Jaitley

New Delhi: The Switzerland government has informed India that there is no list of Indian tax residents holding assets in Swiss banks, the government told Parliament on Tuesday.

“The Swiss authorities in their reply dated 4 July 2014 have stated that there is no list of Indians tax residents holding assets in Swiss financial institutions in their own names or through (other) structures," finance minister Arun Jaitley said in a written reply in Rajya Sabha.

India wrote to Switzerland last month following media reports that the latter was compiling a list of Indians who have bank accounts in Swiss banks. The Swiss government has now clarified that this is not the case.

In a separate reply, Nirmala Sitharaman, minister of state for finance, said the government has no authentic estimate of the amount of black money held by Indians in foreign banks and cannot give a definite timeframe within which it can bring back this money into the country.

Doing this was a campaign promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Since taking over in late May, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has also, in keeping with a directive from the apex court, created a special investigation team under retired Supreme Court judge M.B. Shah to investigate the issue.

Jaitley said India has made several requests seeking information about its nationals holding bank accounts in Swiss banks following amendments to the double taxation avoidance convention (DTAC) with the country in 2011. “There has been a positive response to some requests, where information has been provided subject to the confidentiality clause. In other cases, the Swiss government has not been providing the information requested citing restriction imposed by their domestic laws," he said.

India and Switzerland have exchanged a series of letters in the past couple of months over the European nation’s reluctance to share information contained in an HSBC Holdings Plc’s list that was made available to India by the French government last year.

India wants Switzerland to provide information on the 700 Indian citizens mentioned in the list as allegedly holding HSBC bank accounts in Geneva. Switzerland characterizes this information as stolen data and says it is not required to share this information with India under Section 26 of the DTAC between the two countries.

However, with Switzerland signing a pledge under the aegis of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)—a grouping of developed countries—that commits it to share with other governments information on taxpayers’ bank balances, dividends, interest incomes and sales proceeds used to calculate capital gains tax, India may find it easier to access information in the future.

Total deposits of Indians in Swiss banks increased to 14,100 crore as of end 2013, up from 8,547 crore a year ago, according to the government.

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Updated: 09 Jul 2014, 12:44 AM IST
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