'No authentic figures on black money deposits'



New Delhi: As the tussle seeking disclosure of names of people who have stashed black money abroad continues in Supreme Court, the Finance Ministry says it has "no authentic figures" about the quantum of money deposited in Swiss banks.

The Ministry also said that certain "references" have been received on the black money issue but declined to make the information public since it will "impede the process of investigation" as the case is being heard in the apex court.

"There are no authentic figures about the amount of deposits held by Indian citizens in Swiss Banks, which are exclusive of their lawful and legitimate deposits," the Ministry said in reply to an RTI query.

"Certain references have been received on this issue on which appropriate action is being taken. However, as furnishing of information at this stage may impede the process of investigation in the matter, the information sought is exempt from disclosure under the provisions of Section 8 (1) (h) of the RTI Act 2005," it said.

The applicant had asked the Ministry of Finance to give information on the names of individuals/companies who have deposited black money in Swiss banks along with the steps taken by the government to check it.

"It is stated that efforts have been made from time to time to seek details of the bank accounts held by Indians in Swiss Confederation under the existing Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) between India and Switzerland.

"However, the Swiss Federal Tax Administration has expressed its inability to exchange the information regarding bank deposits of Indian citizens as the information was not necessary for the application of the DTAA between India and Swiss Confederation but was required only for the enforcement of India internal laws," the RTI reply said.

"They (Swiss Authorities) also replied that such information was not at their disposal under Swiss Laws in the normal course of tax administration," it added.

The Supreme Court hearing a petition yesterday slammed the government for its inefficiency in dealing with the case and focusing its probe only on Hasan Ali, owner of Pune-based stud farm, accused of money laundering and largescale tax evasion.

"Was the Government sleeping all these years on the issue of blackmoney," the court had asked while hearing a petition filed by noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani and others seeking direction to the government to bring back black money stashed by Indian citizens in foreign banks which is believed to be around USD one trillion.

Many NGOs and whistleblowers have complained to authorities that Indian money worth several thousands crore was illegally routed to many tax havens and urged government to take strict measures to put a bar on it.

PTI