India seeks Liechtenstein assistance in black money trail

New Delhi, Jan 21 (PTI) Under pressure to bring back theblack money stashed abroad, India has sought Liechtensteingovernment''s help in taking action against those alleged tohave kept illicit wealth in a bank of the European country.

A spokesperson for the Liechtenstein government confirmedto PTI that a request has been made by its Indian counterpartfor administrative assistance in relation to some Indianclients of LGT Bank, based in the European country locatednear Switzerland.

However, the Liechtenstein government is unlikely toentertain India''s request in the absence of any bilateral taxtreaty between the two countries.

"But we are working towards the common goal ofestablishing a treaty that enables us to exchange informationin the future, according to the international standards," thegovernment spokesperson said in reply to emailed queries.

The Indian government has been under tremendous pressureto take action against those with stashed illicit wealth inforeign banks located mostly in Switzerland and some otherEuropean locations like Liechtenstein, where clients'' detailsare kept highly secretive.

Last year, Indian government is said to have got someinformation from German government about certain Indianshaving secret accounts in LGT Bank. The tax department herehasreportedly also begun serving notices against these entitiesfor evasion of taxes.

The Indian government is believed to have sought helpfrom Liechtenstein government as part of its investigationsinto possible tax evasion and other violations by the Indianshaving accounts in LGT Bank. .

India is currently seeking to sign treaties with a number of countries, including Switzerland and Liechtenstein, toenable exchange of information about tax evasion and otherfinancial offences.

Asked whether India has sought a tax treaty,Liechtenstein''s government spokesperson said: "India hasconfirmed her interest in concluding a tax agreement withLiechtenstein.

"Exploratory talks took place, with a view to enter intonegotiations. On the basis of the Liechtenstein Declaration ofMarch 12, 2009, where the Government committed to the globalOECD standards on transparency and information exchange in taxmatters, the Government of Liechtenstein is prepared tonegotiate a tax agreement with India.

"It is the firm view of the Government that compliancewith international standards is a key factor to grantstability, reputation, and credibility of Liechtenstein''sfinancial centre," the spokesperson added.

Liechtenstein has offered to negotiate a tax agreementwith India accordingly, she said, adding that the country wascommitted to negotiate comprehensive bilateral tax agreementson the basis of the accepted international standards.

Asked about India''s request for administrative actionagainst LGT Bank''s Indian clients, she said: "We cannot replyto the content of the request since there is no legal basis,i.e. no bilateral agreement, for this."

The Indian government has even been rapped by the SupremeCourt, which had expressed displeasure over the government''sreluctance to disclose information about black money stashedby Indian in foreign banks.

"It is a pure and simple theft of the national money.

We are talking about mind-boggling crime. We are not on theniceties of various treaties," a bench comprising justices BSudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar had said on Wednesday.

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