Will help India trace black money: Mauritius

Last Updated: Sunday, February 20, 2011 - 22:25

New Delhi: Facing flak over its tax-friendly regime allegedly facilitating the flow of black money, Mauritius has promised full support to India`s quest for unearthing the source and destination of such illicit wealth.

At the same time, the Indian Ocean`s island nation has also asserted that it will not allow any "sensational fishing expedition" and has taken strong exception to its name being linked to each and every financial scandal.

Replying to email queries on whether it would help India track black money, the Mauritian Finance Ministry told reporters that Mauritius was collaborating with India to track the "black money" and the collaboration between the two countries has been strengthened on this front.

Mauritius` Ministry of Finance and Economic Development replied in the affirmative to a query on whether it would share banking information on Indian entities with accounts in the country.

Concerns have been raised in the recent past over suspicion of round-tripping or routing of Indians` illicit money back into the country through the Mauritius.
Indian agencies are said to have increased their oversight after they noticed a significant surge in venture capital funds coming from Mauritius in sectors like telecom and real estate, which have been under close scrutiny in recent times for money laundering.

The tax-friendly regime in Mauritius has always been a key factor for entities that wish to invest in India to set up shop in the island nation. However, this tax benefit has also come in handy for those wishing to indulge in round-tripping activities or routing of illicit funds back into India through the Mauritius.

Detailing the various steps taken by Mauritius on the black money issue, the Finance Ministry of the island nation said it has received various information requests from India on this matter and they all have been duly answered.

"However, information sharing for intelligence purposes and mutual legal assistance are provided on established international practices and not on sensational fishing expeditions," the ministry said.

Switzerland, which is said to be the biggest haven for Indian black money, has also ruled out any fishing expedition (trawling of their bank accounts) by India or any other country in the hope of finding something interesting.

Swiss banks have said they would only entertain information sharing requests backed by concrete proof of a suspected tax offence by their account holders.

Mauritius said its existing treaty with India provides for sharing of banking information and its banks and other financial institutions are required to maintain "full and true written record of every transaction they conduct."

Banks and other financial institutions are required to maintain the identity information of their clients, which must be kept for at least seven years, and "numbered bank accounts are not allowed in Mauritius," the Mauritian Finance Ministry said.

Any violation of these obligations could attract a fine of 50,000 Mauritian rupees (about Rs 80,000) and up to two years of imprisonment.

However, the Mauritius Finance Ministry expressed its displeasure at speculation that seeks to establish "any Mauritian connection" with each financial scandal and said such stances were baseless.
"The government of Mauritius has always been committed to the combating of money laundering and the elimination of tax malpractices," the ministry said.

Earlier this month, the Mauritius` Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Finance and Economic Development, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, said the country has put in place all necessary checks against flow of black money and illicit funds were not being routed through it into India.

While Jugnauth claimed that the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with India was doing well, some lapses have been pointed out in the treaty by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the global agency working on implementation of international standards on taxation and other matters.

The OECD has named Mauritius among countries where tax laws and information exchange systems do not meet global standards.

The OECD, in its review of Mauritius, also took note of reports expressing concern over Indian taxpayers using Mauritian business entities to round-trip profits.

On these concerns, the Mauritian Finance Ministry said the OECD report has also recognised that "Mauritius is putting in place a national strategy for an efficient exchange of information system and answers most requests within 90 days."

"Despite all the efforts that may be made to have the best system in place that would prevent malpractices, there can always be some unscrupulous persons who would have some scheme that could help them beat the system," the ministry said.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, February 20, 2011 - 22:25

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