NEW DELHI: In a major step towards the government getting hold of details of Indian money stashed in Swiss bank accounts, a revised agreement with Switzerland will allow investigators to access information relating to not just tax fraud but evasion as well.
The reworked double taxation agreement ( DTA), signed by India and Switzerland on Monday, will mean Indian authorities can seek information about account-holders in Swiss banks from January 2011 as long as they have a case, but the agreement won’t facilitate a fishing expedition, Swiss foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said.
In an exclusive interaction with TOI, Calmy-Rey said starting January 1, 2011, Swiss authorities will provide information to India on cases of tax fraud and tax evasion. Ever since reports emerged of Indians having accounts in tax havens like Liechtenstein and the success of governments like the US in accessing these accounts, New Delhi has been working to get better terms from the Swiss.
A new deal between India and Switzerland may be major step forward in the fight against tax fraud.
“Under the revised pact, we will give information to India not just in cases of tax fraud but also in tax evasion cases. We are also making a major concession for India in that we will start this process retroactively from January 1, 2011, as soon as ratification of the revised agreement has taken place in the course of 2011,” Swiss foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said.
She also pegged the total amount of money in Swiss banks at 2,100 billion francs, or $2,050 billion, half of which were institutional funds.
“We don’t have individual or a country-wise break-up of the money with Swiss banks but we do know that the total amount in the country’s banks is around 2,100 billion francs. And half of this amount belongs to institutional clients,” Calmy-Rey said in reply to a query that close on to $1.4 trillion in Indian black money was parked in Swiss banks. If half of the $2,050 billion is institutional money, the Swiss foreign minister said, the unaccounted-for money stashed abroad would be a little over $1,025 billion. Even if Indians account for 50% of this figure, their share would come to only $500 billion.
Rajya Sabha MP Ram Jethmalani, who has maintained in SC that government can’t claim immunity from disclosing documents related to black money in Swiss banks, said last week that $1,500 billion in black money was lying in Swiss banks.
Calmy-Rey also made it clear that the information under the revised agreement could be subject to conditions stipulated by OECD.