New Delhi: Amid a raging controversy over black money allegedly stashed by stud farm owner Hasan Ali in Swiss banks, Switzerland has said it is awaiting a "complete" request from India for help in this case since 2007.
Switzerland`s Federal Office of Justice (FoJ) had last told Indian authorities in August 2010 to complete their request and the request has not been completed so far, an FoJ spokesperson said.
India had first sought legal assistance from the Swiss authorities in January 2007 in this case, but Switzerland can provide help only after India makes a request "complete" with facts corresponding to a fraudulent conduct of the accused, the official said in reply to emailed queries.
Besides, the Swiss government`s internal probe in the case of Hasan Ali, who is alleged to have stashed billions of dollars of illicit wealth in Swiss and other foreign banks, has found no reality in the presumed transfer of USD 6 billion to his accounts in Swiss bank UBS, he added.
The spokesperson said that numerous communications have taken place between the two countries in connection with this case, but Switzerland can provide legal assistance in the matter only after the request corresponds to a tax fraud.
Addressing a press conference on the black money issue, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said last week that investigation was still continuing in the Hasan Ali matter and the case was being pursued both by the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax department.
Mukherjee said that there were several cases involved against Ali, including a double passport case and avoidance of taxes and the ED had received information on three Swiss bank accounts allegedly held by him, where no amounts were left.
"One account where USD 60,000 were deposited, and next day the amount was withdrawn. There was no trace of that," Mukherjee said, adding that the government had seized some documents related to Ali`s foreign bank accounts that later turned out to be forged.
"On the basis of forged document no information can be given (by Swiss banks)," the Minister added.
In reply to queries on this matter, the FoJ spokesperson provided an entire chronology of the case since 2007.
"In January 2007, Indian authorities submitted in the context of criminal proceedings against Hassan Ali Khan (namely for money laundering) a request for legal assistance to FoJ. They asked Swiss authorities to freeze his bank accounts and to hand over the relevant banking documents."
In the same month, FoJ informed the Indian authorities that "concerning the presumed transfer of 6 billions USD domestic inquiries has revealed that the supposed transfer to UBS accounts has no reality."
On India`s request for help in the matter, the Swiss authorities replied that they needed specific details to "examine and possibly to accept and execute the request," the official said.
These specific details included a confirmation that the Indian investigation is a criminal one (no tax or related investigation), a better description of the predicate offences which are object of the Indian money-laundering investigation and to show the relation between the predicate offences and the accounts in Switzerland.
The FoJ spokesperson said that Indian Embassy in March 2007 submitted some complements to the FoJ.
However, the FoJ informed the Embassy in April 2007 that the complements did not include the necessary specification.
"Without these information Swiss authorities cannot examine whether the conditions to grant legal assistance are fulfilled or not. Indian authorities have not submitted the necessary specification so far," he added.
The FoJ spokesperson said that Indian authorities submitted a new request for legal assistance in August 2010 in the context of criminal proceedings for tax offences.
However, even this request was not considered as "complete" with all the necessary specifications by Swiss authorities.
"In the same month (August 2010), the FoJ told the Indian authorities: Switzerland does not grant mutual assistance for tax evasion.
"However, mutual assistance may be granted in cases of tax fraud (fraudulent evasion of duty and taxes by using false, forged or untrue information, documents etc). The facts described in the request do not correspond to tax fraud, therefore mutual assistance can’t be granted," the official said.
The FoJ spokesperson added that "Indian authorities may complete their request at any time, if fraudulent conduct is discovered in the Indian proceedings. The request hasn`t been completed so far."