Will PM Modi finally be able to bring back all black money from Swiss banks?

The logo of Swiss bank UBS in front of the Swiss Federal Palace in Berne.Creative commons

The efforts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to bring back black money stashed abroad will get a boost this September in the form of the first set of detailed information about Indians with Swiss bank accounts. The details would include the data of accounts closed during the past year, a report from Reuters says.

The details being provided under the Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) framework would include account numbers, credit balance and all kinds of financial incomes, the report says.

Switzerland's Federal Department of Finance (FDF) has promised that the first set of details in September would be followed by despatches on a yearly basis. This would be in addition to the details already shared by Switzerland with India for nearly 100 Indian entities, including individuals and enterprises, on submission of prima facie evidence of their financial wrongdoings, under a bilateral pact for administrative assistance on tax matters, the report says.

Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan also said in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday that India would begin getting information from September about financial accounts held in Switzerland by Indian residents.

The India-Switzerland bilateral tax treaty facilitates receipt of the information on a request basis for cases under investigation, he said. "The information received on request or on automatic basis may include information about persons allegedly involved in corruption," Muraleedharan said. Asked whether the government would reveal those names, the minister, however, said the "use and disclosure of the information" is governed by confidentiality provisions.

Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah wave at party workers during a party programme in New Delhi on May 23, 2019. Bringing back the black money from abroad was a major campaign promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The government's efforts have recently gotten a boost with the Swiss authorities promising to share more details.IANS

Explaining the AEOI with India that came into effect from January 1, 2018, the FDF said that Switzerland, as a global wealth management hub, is committed to contributing to the integrity of the international financial system and to a level playing field. "Switzerland applies the international transparency standards and therefore actively supports India in its fight against tax fraud and evasion," it said.

Under the AEOI framework, detailed financial information on all Indian residents that have an account maintained by a Swiss financial institution in 2018 will be provided for the first time to the Indian tax authorities in September 2019 and on a yearly basis thereafter. The information would include accounts that were closed during 2018, it said.

Bringing back the black money stashed away abroad by Indians was a major campaign plank of Prime Minister Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) faced many awkward questions about its promises on black money during the 2019 general election. Added to that the flight of several high-profile economic offense fugitives like Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya, and Mehul Choksi forced the government in the backfoot during the campaign. However, the latest success will help blunt opposition criticism on this count.

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