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HomeEditorialOnce again, Black money hit the headlines

Once again, Black money hit the headlines

Indian government has been pushing the Swiss authorities for a long time to share information on the suspected tax evaders, while Switzerland has shared some details in cases where India has been able to provide some independent evidence of suspected tax evasion by Indian clients of Swiss banks. Two Indian women figure among scores of foreign nationals with Swiss bank accounts, whose names have been made public by Switzerland in its official gazette for being probed in their respective countries. Making public these names, the Swiss federal tax administration (FTA) has asked the two Indians to file an appeal within 30 days before the federal administrative court if they do not want their details to be shared with the Indian authorities under their “mutual assistance” treaty on tax matters. However, no further details — other than their dates of birth — were made public for the two “Indian nationals” — Sneh Lata Sawhney and Sangita Sawhney. Similar is the case for other foreign nationals including the British, Spanish and Russians. However, in case of American and Israeli citizens, their full names have been withheld and they have been identified by their initials and date of birth. At least, 40 such “final notices” have been published in the Swiss federal gazette so far this month, while more such names are expected to be published.

Earlier, the Union government filed an application in the Supreme Court, saying it cannot disclose details of foreign accounts held by Indians which are governed by bilateral double taxation avoidance treaties. If that is the matter then why the same BJP had created disruptions in parliament to release the names earlier when they were in opposition? All political parties are same with different faces when they are in power and opposition. We are being forced to choose between crooks with different names and political affiliations.

The PM and his party, the BJP, had promised during the campaigning of the Lok Sabha elections, that it would take steps to bring back billions of illegal money stashed away in various countries and will book all those who have held such accounts. However, by not revealing the names, it appears that NDA is also siding with the crooks, which is shameless and is stabbing on the back of those who supported him and his party. As for Ram Jethmalani, he has no right to talk as he represents every criminal and corrupt politician who is charged with corruption, looting public money and property. The government should channel a way out by talking with the respective governments and ensure the culprits should be booked; else it will go the way the Congress is going. SC should not accept this argument and pass an order to reveal available information with it.

Black Money was just a political gimmick, most of the black money is right here in India – in the form of Real Estate and gold. It is not possible to bring back black money from abroad as the rules of the respective country cannot be changed for us. Also, most of the money in foreign banks is white and belongs to diamond merchants and businessmen. Incentives to expose black money in India can bring out a lot of black money. The Income tax dept. should go after people who do not file returns but have invested in property and expensive cars. People can give information to the department if there is a dedicated website and the complainant’s name is kept confidential. But which political party has the guts to bite the bullet? Everyone knows who has this black money. There is no point in diverting people’s attention to a foreign land. One should look within first. Lakhs of rich investors within the country are rolling their money in market. Millions of business people never ever heard of income tax return. Chartered Accountant who should work for the country, are working for individual to save taxes. It is shocking that media never focuses on it. Highest tax is paid by the service class whose salary comes after tax deductions and then pays tax again for every purchase or expenditure. Rolling money in black market are getting richer by average 30 per cent annual return and common man (fool) still keeps money in PPF at 8-9 per cent return.

Last year on June 19, there was news about Indians’ money in Swiss banks being raised to over two billion Swiss francs (nearly Rs. 14,000 crore), despite a global clampdown against the famed secrecy wall of Switzerland banking system. The funds held by Indians with banks in Switzerland rose by over 40 per cent during 2013, from about 1.42 billion Swiss francs at the end of the 2012, as per the data released by the country’s central banking authority Swiss National Bank. In contrast, the money held in Swiss banks by their foreign clients from across the world continued to decline and stood at a record low of 1.32 trillion Swiss francs (about $1.56 trillion or over Rs. 90 lakh crore) at the end of 2013. During 2012, the Indians’ money in Swiss banks had fallen by over one-third to a record low level.

The total Indian money held in Swiss banks included 1.95 billion Swiss francs held directly by Indian individuals and entities, and another 77.3 million Swiss francs through ‘fiduciaries’ or wealth managers at the end of 2013. The data from Zurich-based SNB comes at a time when Switzerland is facing growing pressure from India and many other countries to share foreign client details, while its own lawmakers are resisting such measures. India has also constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe cases of alleged black money of Indians, including funds stashed abroad in places like Switzerland. The funds, described by SNB as ‘liabilities’ of Swiss banks or ‘amounts due to’ their clients, are the official figures disclosed by the Swiss authorities and do not indicate towards the quantum of the much-debated alleged black money held by Indians in the safe havens of Switzerland. There are a total of 283 banks in Switzerland, down from nearly 300 at the beginning of 2013. This include two banks (UBS and Credit Suisse) classified as big banks, while there are 93 foreign-controlled banks operating in the country.

Amid allegations of Indians stashing huge amounts of illicit wealth abroad, including Swiss banks, the Indian government has been saying that it was making various efforts to bring back the unaccounted money is just a drama. The government must take stern steps to bring the money back into the economy. The step would not only ensure lessening fiscal deficit but also enhance the economic growth of the country. The fact that Swiss banks provide security to the Indians’ black money makes a mockery of professional ethics. Anyway, one of the election planks of BJP was to fight against corruption and stashing of money “to its logical end”, and even a SIT was formed immediately after Modi government came to power. Now citing treaty, protection of the corrupt is sought.

Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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