HSBC fictitious accounts: I-T approaches Swiss authorities

HSBC fictitious accounts: I-T approaches Swiss authorities New Delhi: The Income Tax department, probing the secret list of account holders in the Geneva branch of HSBC bank, has approached Swiss revenue authorities for banking data of certain individuals after investigations showed some of them reportedly had other accounts under fictitious names.

The department, which approached the Finance Ministry and the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) in this regard recently, has initiated the step in order to build a water tight case against those who have stashed illegal funds abroad and the action has been taken under the recently revised tax information exchange treaty between the two countries.

Top sources involved in the probe said that after India received the list, both the I-T department and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) have gathered vital leads on the financial investments of a certain number of individuals and it is suspected that a number of them hold other Swiss accounts under different names allegedly to evade the tax scanner.

The department, sources said, has also opened I-T assessments of a "specific number" of those named on the same list under the provisions of Wealth Tax laws.

The department, through the foreign taxation wing of the CBDT, has approached Swiss authorities as India can now "get information even if it only has limited details regarding the person having bank accounts in Switzerland".

This was not possible prior to May this year.

These "limited details" related to other Swiss bank accounts, sources said, were obtained by tax sleuths after investigations were conducted in various cities, acting on the HSBC Geneva list entities which was provided by the French government last year.

"The additional details will set the ball rolling for beginning prosecution in specific cases," the sources added. The revised Indo-Swiss Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) has a specific clause that has been cited by India to obtain the vital information against those who figure on the HSBC Geneva list.

"It is sufficient if the requesting state (India) identifies the person (suspected tax evader) by other means than by indicating the name and address of the person concerned, and indicates to the extent known, the name and address of any person believed to be in possession of the requested information," the new DTAA agreement of April 30 this year between India and Switzerland states.

India has reportedly obtained data of over 700 HSBC accounts from French government channels.

According to latest data, in 80 cases till now, the I-T department has detected undisclosed income of Rs 438 crore and taxes of Rs 135 crore have been realised so far.

The Finance Ministry had recently said that investigations are in progress with regard to these account holders days after activist Arvind Kejriwal accused it of inaction over black money allegedly stashed away in the HSBC Bank in Geneva.

The official statement added that information was received in June last year by the government from its counterpart in France relating to certain bank accounts reportedly held by certain individuals and non-individuals in a foreign bank.

PTI