German, Swiss Govts promise help on black money;assert secrecy
Germany and Switzerland have promised full support to India in unearthing black money stashed in their countries, but have asserted that their secrecy clause - barring Indian government from making the names public - be strictly dhered to.
Germany, which last year provided the names of some Indians having secret accounts in Liechtenstein's LGT Bank, will readily share more names whenever it comes across any, a German government official told from Berlin. "Relevant data are always passed as a so-called spontaneous information from the (German) Federal Bureau of Taxes to the tax authorities of affected countries," a spokesperson for Germany's Finance Ministry said. However, the official added that such information can't be made public and should only be used by the competent authorities.
A top Swiss government official also asserted that the information to be shared by Swiss authorities with India, once the revised tax treaty between two countries comes into force, can't be made public and should be "treated as secret." A spokesperson of Swiss Finance Ministry said from Berne that any information received should be treated as secret and should be disclosed only to persons or authorities, including courts and administrative bodies, involved in enforcement or prosecution procedures.
He was referring to the "exchange of information" clause in the amending protocol, as per which the Indo-Swiss tax treaty is being revised to facilitate the sharing of details related to persons accused of tax evasion or fraud and have stashed illicit wealth in Swiss banks. The Indian government is facing intense pressure from opposition, as also courts, to act tough against those who have amassed illicit wealth in foreign countries that have strict secrecy rules. India is putting in place relevant treaties with both Switzerland and Liechtenstein, a European nation, to get access to details about Indians having illicit wealth in bank accounts there. However, names of certain entities having accounts in LGT Bank of Liechtenstein were given to India last year by Germany. These names were part of about 1,400 stolen bank account details that were purchased by Germany, which later shared the related details with India.
The German official said that these details were shared with India "free of charge", on reciprocal basis. India has submitted to the Supreme Court the names it got from Germany, but has refused to make them public, citing secrecy clause in its treaties with foreign countries. However, some names have been published in the media, claiming them to be part of the list obtained from Germany. Reacting to these reports, the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday disclosed to the media in Kolkata that of the 18 names of secret account holders in a bank in Liechtenstein, notices have been issued to 17. One person was dead and so no no prosecution was possible, he said.
The Finance Minister was talking to reporters a day after the media put out details of a list of 18 names, including 15 individuals and three foundations, holding accounts in a Lichtenstein Bank. Recalling his press conference in Delhi last week, Mukherjee said government was not in a position to disclose the names it has got of those holding secret accounts abroad and these will be known once the matter comes up in court. "I had said in my earlier press conference as and when there will be prosecution and the matter will come to the open court then the names will be disclosed".
"But government suo motu cannot disclose the names. These are their concealed income. We have given the notices and prosecution will start very soon," he said. Mukherjee said "of the 18 names we got we have already started prosecution. Notices have been issued in case of 17 persons. One person is dead so no no prosecution could be made."
The Finance Minister had at a press conference last week ruled out disclosing the names of account holders abroad citing absence of legal framework as a reason.(ST-05/02) Govt sends notices to 17 related to black money trail Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said the government has served notices to 17 persons related to the foreign banks black money trail, but it is not possible to reveal their names.
"We have received a few names and already served notices on 17 persons and prosecution has begun," he said in Kolkata on Saturday. He said the government cannot reveal the names of account holders who have stashed their money away in Swiss banks as the information can only be used for taxation purposes. "The government, suo motu, cannot reveal the names because according to treaty we can only use the information for taxation purposes. We can only reveal the details in the open court when the matter comes up for hearing," Mukherjee said.
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