German, Swiss govts promise help on black money;assert secrecy

Posted By: Pti
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New Delhi, Feb 6 (PTI) Germany and Switzerland havepromised full support to India in unearthing black moneystashed in their countries, but have asserted that theirsecrecy clause - barring Indian government from making thenames public - be strictly adhered to.

Germany, which last year provided the names of someIndians having secret accounts in Liechtenstein''s LGTBank, will readily share more names whenever it comes acrossany, a German government official told PTI from Berlin.

"Relevant data are always passed as a so-calledspontaneous information from the (German) Federal Bureau ofTaxes to the tax authorities of affected countries," aspokesperson for Germany''s Finance Ministry said.

However, the official added that such information can''tbe made public and should only be used by the competentauthorities.

A top Swiss government official also asserted that theinformation to be shared by Swiss authorities with India, oncethe revised tax treaty between two countries comes into force,can''t be made public and should be "treated as secret."

A spokesperson of Swiss Finance Ministry said from Bernethat any information received should be treated as secret andshould be disclosed only to persons or authorities, includingcourts and administrative bodies, involved in enforcement orprosecution procedures.

He was referring to the "exchange of information" clausein the amending protocol, as per which the Indo-Swiss taxtreaty is being revised to facilitate the sharing of detailsrelated to persons accused of tax evasion or fraud and havestashed illicit wealth in Swiss banks.

The Indian government is facing intense pressure fromopposition, as also courts, to act tough against those whohave amassed illicit wealth in foreign countries that havestrict secrecy rules.

India is putting in place relevant treaties with bothSwitzerland and Liechtenstein, a European nation, to getaccess to details about Indians having illicit wealth in bankaccounts there.

However, names of certain entities having accounts in LGTBank of Liechtenstein were given to India last year byGermany. These names were part of about 1,400 stolen bankaccount details that were purchased by Germany, which latershared the related details with India.

The German official said that these details were sharedwith India "free of charge", on reciprocal basis.

India has submitted to the Supreme Court the names it gotfrom Germany, but has refused to make them public, citingsecrecy clause in its treaties with foreign countries.

However, some names have been published in the media,claiming them to be part of the list obtained from Germany.

Reacting to these reports, the Finance Minister PranabMukherjee yesterday told reporters in Kolkata that the namescould not be made public, but notices have been served to 17entities in this case and prosecution has begun.

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