Black money: Swiss government says cooperating intensely with India

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Berne/New Delhi: Under pressure to act on black money front, Switzerland has said it is intensely pursuing cooperation with India, even as the bilateral ties remain “tense” over its refusal to share bank account details on the basis of stolen data.

Despite a difficult environment and differences over sharing of information, the “door for dialogue nevertheless remains open” with India, the Swiss government said.

Reflecting the high priority accorded to India, Switzerland in its latest annual report on ‘international financial and tax matters’ has also described the country as one of the four “important partners” with whom it intensely pursued cooperation in tax matters during 2014.

The other nations mentioned alongside India on this issue are France, Italy and the US.

Switzerland, long known as a place with unbreakable banking secrecy, has come under intense global pressure, including from India, amid worldwide efforts to crack down on illicit fund flows.

Armed with information received about its citizens holding secret accounts in Swiss banks, India has been seeking details from Switzerland, but most of these requests were being stonewalled by the European nation on the ground of those being based on stolen data.

Consequently, India has now changed its strategy and has decided to seek details on the basis of independent evidence collected by it on suspected cases of black money stashed in Swiss banks. Switzerland has now agreed to share details if India is able to provide independent evidence.

Last month, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley met his Swiss counterpart Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf and discussed the issue on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos.

Referring to India in detail in its ‘Report on international financial and tax matters 2015’, Switzerland said that India has stepped up its fight against black money.

“India’s finance minister, Arun Jaitley, took up office on May 26, 2014. He has joined the government at a time when India is stepping up its fight against tax evasion and fraud, with the creation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) entrusted with shedding light on the assets held abroad by Indian residents.

“Relations with Switzerland remain tense due to the refusal to exchange information when a request is based on data obtained illegally.

“Despite the difficult environment, the door for dialogue nevertheless remains open. A meeting was thus held in Bern on October 15, 2014 on Switzerland’s initiative. The meeting took place in a positive atmosphere and ended with a joint statement identifying the basis for solutions concerning the bilateral issues under discussion,” it added.

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