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India in touch with whistleblower to get entire names of black money holders

As expanded list of Indians having accounts in HSBC, Switzerland is coming to the fore. The government today said it is in touch with a whistle blower who had leaked the accounts and is verifying the veracity of the new accounts.

However, Switzlerland said even the expanded list has been derived from the stolen data, an assertion which may make it difficult for India to seek the cooperation of the European country without additional evidence.

“Some new names have been revealed whose veracity would be checked by authorities,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters as government said that information in more than 600 cases has been sought from foreign jurisdictions.

Jaitley was reacting to a report in a section of the media which stated that the new list of account holders is close to 1,200 almost double of the names that figured in the list shared in 2011 by the French Government.

Following the revelations the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) today discussed the fresh list and cited that there could be atleast 100 new names in the list.

“We will consider all new cases where there is evidence of black money… We will complete probe in all cases which are getting time barred by March 31,” SIT vice chairman Arijit Pasayat told reporters here.

Income Tax Department is already in touch with the whistle blower who brought out the names of persons holding undisclosed bank accounts in the said bank, a statement from the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) cited.

However, so far the person hasn’t responded to requests of the Indian authorities.

“He has been requested to share information available with him in regard to undisclosed bank accounts of Indians in HSBC, Switzerland and other destinations. His response is awaited,” it said.

Meanwhile, a statement from Switzerland added another aspect to the tale which stated that the list is from “stolen data”, which could potentially make it difficult for India to get details on these accounts.

“The published information is based on the known list with stolen data of the years 2007 and earlier,” a Switzerland government spokesperson told PTI from Berne.

Switzerland, however, said the country is “strongly committed” to fight against the black money menace following change in its policy a few years ago.

Jaitley also said all the accounts may not be illegal as some holders had disclosed their overseas business dealings to tax authorities while some others on the list (first list of 628 Indians) were NRIs. Names, he said, are immaterial if they are not backed by evidence. “Evidence in addition to stolen data; so that a water-tight case can be framed. Just names do not ensure proper proceedings in the court. It should be rather backed by solid evidence.”

Meanwhile, HSBC today admitted there have been lapses in the past on its part. “We acknowledge that the compliance culture and standards of due diligence in HSBC’s Swiss private bank, as well as the industry in general, were significantly lower than they are today,” HSBC said in London.

The government assured that it has established contacts with their counterparts in other nations who could potentially help in tackling the black money issue.

“Based upon credible information of undisclosed foreign bank accounts, fresh references for obtaining further information in more than 600 cases have been made to foreign jurisdictions, under available treaties/agreements. The same are being pursued,” an official statement said.

Upto December 31, 2014, the tax department has completed assessments in 128 cases, involving more than 350 assessments in which they have initiated concealment proceedings. In the remaining cases, assessment proceedings are at advance stage. The net amount of peak balance for the 428 cases of black money was about Rs 4,500 crore.

Undisclosed income of about Rs 3,150 crore has been brought to tax on account of deposits made in unreported foreign bank accounts.

“About 60 prosecutions have so far been launched for willful attempt to evade taxes and failure to furnish accounts and documents etc,” said a government statement.

The finance minister also said that he had met top Swiss authorities, including Switzerland’s Finance Minister, in Davos last month and it was agreed there that admission by assesses would be considered additional evidence to seek details.

The Indian names revealed today are part of a global list of account holders in HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm and their balances for the year 2006-07. They include persons from over 200 countries with total balance of over $ 100 billion.

Additionally, the ED and CBDT have been asked to gather information on the new list and inform SIT at the earliest, Pasayat said adding with today’s development the scope of the probe has widened.


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