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Can share Indians' Swiss bank account details: Envoy

Sunday February 13, 2011 04:32:55 PM, Rohit Vaid, IANS

New Delhi: Switzerland is willing to share information on Indians holding secret bank accounts there as part of New Delhi's effort to bring back an estimated $1.4 trillion black money in tax havens abroad, the country's envoy Philippe Welti has said.

"We now have an agreement with the Government of India. Under it if the government sends us a request, we will comply and provide the necessary information, which is asked of us," Welti told IANS in an interview.

"Now there is awareness in my country that people in India think that our country is used to hide tax-evaded money. That's why Switzerland has decided that whenever a request for information is sent, it would be provided under tax fraud and evasion," he added.

"I do understand this is a sensitive case in India, and Switzerland is ready to fully cooperate within the legal framework of our signed agreement," he said, adding that a reworked treaty with India on double taxation will help further after ratification.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had said last month that secrecy clauses in India's treaties with other countries were preventing the government from disclosing the names of Indians with black money abroad, estimated at $462 billion to $1.4 trillion.

The government, he said, had also submitted the names of some suspected offenders in a sealed cover to the Supreme Court, which had asked the executive to be more serious on black money, as it constituted a "plunder" of the nation's wealth.

Mukherjee also said notices were served on 17 Indians suspected of having black money abroad, but ruled out revealing their names. He said their names will be out only when prosecution starts.

The Swiss envoy, while speaking to IANS, also said that the issue of black money had no impact on the country's image -- which remained one of the most favoured and picturesque travel destinations in the world.

"Switzerland's image is not impacted in any way. If private individuals from India have been banking there, it does not necessarily mean that are stashing away money or not. I don't know! All I know is my country was providing a service of banking," he said.

 

(Rohit Vaid can be reached at rohit.v@ians.in)

 

 

 

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