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250 Indians have admitted to overseas bank accounts: Jaitley
Wednesday November 26, 2014 8:01 PM, IANS

Refuting opposition charges that little was being done to get back illicit money stashed away by Indians abroad, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said a lot of ground has been covered and 250 people have conceded to overseas bank accounts.

"The issue is not to disclose or not, but how and when to disclose the names," Jaitley told the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament, in his reply to a discussion on black money Wednesday.

He said this was because since the evidence of black money stashed away by Indians is outside the Indian shores, the government must get evidence first from other countries, using the various treaties that New Delhi has entered into with them.

"The names will become public," Jaitley assured, when some opposition members demanded that the government reveals the identities of the perpetrators right away, since they were already being talked about in the media.

"Disclosure of names, without following the proper procedures, would only benefit the account holders," he added.

He said the government is actively engaging with other countries to widen its scope of operations against black money beyond the stage of cooperation on monies related to drugs and crime to tax-evaded money.

Jaitley said that as things stood now, the Swiss authorities have been persuaded to at least establish the veracity of any evidence that the Indian government and the special team manage to procure from various sources regarding these accounts.

"In the next stage now, we'll start a dialogue for automatic exchange of information. With countries all over the world we're going to have automatic exchange of tax information", he said.

The finance minister said that out of the 627 names of Indians holding bank accounts overseas, that were furnished to the Supreme Court in a sealed envelope, 427 had been identified. Out of that, he added, 250 had admitted to such accounts.

The finance minister also sought to drive home the point that the first act of the Narendra Modi government was to constitute a Special Investigation Team to probe the black money issue, and that this panel already had these names.

The process, he said was by the special team, under the Supreme Court's supervision, to look at the legal and procedural issues to take the next logical step of getting the relevant evidence and prosecution.

Jaitley also reiterated what was told to the apex court by the government.

All the 627 accounts in the list are at an HSBC Bank branch in Geneva and the details were secured from the French government. The data was actually stolen by a bank employee, as a result of which the Swiss authorities had declined help in any manner.

As regards HSBC, the bank had said that if the Indian authorities get a no-objection certificate from the account holders, it could then share the relevant details. Some 50-60 of the account holders had given their consent, the apex court had been told.

"We are very much on it. The wait is not long," Jaitley said.

"We were hitting a blind wall as to what to do with these information. We are very sincere in our efforts to identify the accounts," he added.

India is going to be in the lead in the fight against black money as deliberated upon recently in the G20 Summit in Australia, Jaitley said.

India has no official estimates of illegal money stashed away overseas, but the unofficial ones range from $466 billion to $1.4 trillion.

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