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Tax info can’t be disclosed outside specific case: Swiss

Amid a debate on disclosure of names of suspected black money holders, the government of Switzerland on Thursday said information exchanged under the Swiss-India tax treaty cannot be disclosed “in principle” to a court or any other body outside the proceedings of a “specific and relevant” case.

The comments come at a time when a Supreme Court (SC) -monitored Special Investigation Team is probing alleged stashing of unaccounted money by Indians aboard, including Swiss banks.

Switzerland, long accused of being a safe haven for illicit funds, has promised to extend assistance to India and reply to requests for information in a “time-bound” manner on cases of alleged tax evasion and financial crimes, or provide a reason if no information can be shared.

Explaining the treaty provisions, a Swiss finance ministry spokesperson said authorities from the two countries are having “regular contacts on bilateral tax matters” but refused to comment on particular cases.

The government on Wednesday gave to the SC a list of 627 Indians with accounts in a Swiss branch of HSBC bank.

While this list was given in ‘sealed envelopes’, three other names were made public a day earlier as prosecution had been launched against those persons.

There has been a debate on whether disclosure of names, without prosecution, could violate tax treaties under which these names and other details are shared by foreign countries.

The Swiss federal department of finance spokesperson said the protocol to the Swiss-Indian Double Taxation Agreement states any information received “by a contracting state shall be treated as ‘secret’ in the same manner as information obtained under the domestic laws of that state.”

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