New Delhi: Switzerland on Wednesday said foreign countries can now seek banking and other financial details about a 'group of persons', even without identifying them individually, but 'fishing expeditions' would remain prohibited for any information exchange.
The European nation, which has been under continuous global pressure for allegedly providing safe haven at its banks to illicit wealth from India and other nations, has taken this latest decision as per a new international standard set by the OECD for exchange of information between two countries.
Paris-based OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) is a grouping of developed nations and makes global policy standards for tax and other economic issues.
Switzerland's Federal Department of Finance said in a statement from Bern that OECD has made certain changes in its 'Model Convention on tax administrative assistance' as per which group requests have been now included in the standard.
"Switzerland's representative also accepted this amendment on behalf of the Federal Council (of the country)," the statement added.
"Now international administrative assistance has to be granted also for groups of taxpayers and not only in individual cases. In the case of group requests, the persons concerned must be identified by means of specific search criteria," the Swiss finance ministry said.
It, however, asserted that the "so-called fishing expeditions", or the requests without concrete indications, remain expressly prohibited.
A revised information exchange framework between India and Switzerland recently came into force, but the European nation has always been against any kind of 'fishing expedition' on its banks and other institutions.
The changes in the model international information exchange have approved by the OECD's Committee of Fiscal Affairs through a consensus.
Besides OECD's 34 member countries, which includes mostly developed countries from the Europe and America, India, China, Russia, Argentina and South Africa also participate in the work of this Committee.
As per OECD, the latest amendment would enable information exchange on request, where the information is "foreseeably relevant" for the administration of the taxes of the requesting party, regardless of bank secrecy and a domestic tax interest.
The OECD also said that tax authorities can now ask for information on a group of taxpayers, without naming them individually, as long as the request is not a 'fishing expedition'.
The changes would facilitate exchange of tax information among law enforcement agencies to fight tax crimes and other criminal activities more effectively, the OECD added.