Black money: German, Swiss govts promise help

The government is facing pressure from opposition, as also courts, to act tough against those who have amassed illicit wealth in foreign countries.

New Delhi: Germany and Switzerland have
promised full support to India in unearthing black money
stashed in their countries, but have asserted that their
secrecy clause - barring Indian government from making the
names public - be strictly adhered to.

Germany, which last year provided the names of some
Indians having secret accounts in Liechtenstein`s LGT
Bank, will readily share more names whenever it comes across
any, a German government official said from Berlin.

"Relevant data are always passed as so-called
spontaneous information from the (German) Federal Bureau of
Taxes to the tax authorities of affected countries," a
spokesperson for Germany`s Finance Ministry said.

However, the official added that such information can`t
be made public and should only be used by the competent

A top Swiss government official also asserted that the
information to be shared by Swiss authorities with India, once
the revised tax treaty between two countries comes into force,
can`t be made public and should be "treated as secret".

A spokesperson of Swiss Finance Ministry said from Berne
that any information received should be treated as secret and
should be disclosed only to persons or authorities, including
courts and administrative bodies, involved in enforcement or
prosecution procedures.

He was referring to the "exchange of information" clause
in the amending protocol, as per which the Indo-Swiss tax
treaty is being revised to facilitate the sharing of details
related to persons accused of tax evasion or fraud and have
stashed illicit wealth in Swiss banks.

The Indian government is facing intense pressure from
opposition, as also courts, to act tough against those who
have amassed illicit wealth in foreign countries that have
strict secrecy rules.

India is putting in place relevant treaties with both
Switzerland and Liechtenstein, a European nation, to get
access to details about Indians having illicit wealth in bank
accounts there.

However, names of certain entities having accounts in LGT
Bank of Liechtenstein were given to India last year by
Germany. These names were part of about 1,400 stolen bank
account details that were purchased by Germany, which later
shared the related details with India.

The German official said that these details were shared
with India "free of charge", on reciprocal basis.

India has submitted to the Supreme Court the names it got
from Germany, but has refused to make them public, citing
secrecy clause in its treaties with foreign countries.

However, some names have been published in the media,
claiming them to be part of the list obtained from Germany.

Reacting to these reports, Finance Minister Pranab
Mukherjee yesterday told reporters in Kolkata that the names
could not be made public, but notices have been served to 17
entities in this case and prosecution has begun.