May 2, 2011

Swiss envoy rubbishes $1.43 tn black money claim

By Sougata Mukhopadhyay

CNN-IBN, Updated Mar 29, 2011 at 08:41am IST

Kolkata: In an exclusive interview with CNN-IBN, Swiss Ambassador Philippe Welti has rubbished India's claim that trillions of dollars are stashed away in Swiss banks.

Embarrassing the Government India, Welti has alleged that the Centre has not done enough to get information on money laundering.

The Government hasn't filed a single application in a proper manner agreed upon by the two governments in its double taxation treaty to access such data.

"All that the Indian government needs to do is to apply in a proper manner as per rules agreed upon by the two governments," said Welti.

The earlier treaty has been revised and under the new treaty the Swiss government would part with data on not only cases of tax frauds (which was agreed upon in the old treaty) but also on tax evasions.

"We have had a many years of treaty which allows the data to release on request is cases, for example tax frauds. Now the good news is that we have negotiated together with India, revision of tax treaty which allows in the future also release of data in cases of tax evasion and this is being ratified very soon it will be implemented. If you have good case sufficient evidence and you can designate the person or the bank account or can even have the cases where the bank account is good enough even you do not have the name. So things have in fact become easier," the Swiss Ambassador said.

As per rules, the Indian Government needs to have a prima facie case against the person who it suspects to have resorted to tax fraud/evasion. Even a particular bank account number would suffice in case of absence of a name.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), Income Tax Department (IT) or the CBI cannot get access to information directly from any Swiss bank. The request has to come from the proper channel, that is from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to the Swiss Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Talking on the claim made by the ED, IT and the CBI that they have visited Switzerland, have requested for data and information from Swiss banks but they have failed to receive any information, Welti said, "If such agencies have tried and were unsuccessful and I was not aware of that my tentative answer that they probably tried that but that is against the bank rules. It has to go from one government to the other and the channel for the communication is the foreign ministries."

On the issue of $1.43 trillion black money figure quoted in the Indian Parliament that's supposedly stashed away in Swiss accounts, Welty said, "That figure is known to me because it has been repeated to me many times by journalists, who copy each other. The figure is pure fantasy."

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