17 Indians admit to having secret swiss A/Cs

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Black Money
Mumbai, Nov 10: With the black money issue raising the jitters for many, the Income Tax department, Mumbai has managed to secure as many as 17 'voluntary disclosures' of those having secret Swiss accounts with HSBC Bank, Switzerland in order to avoid getting into a legal tangle. It is understood that close to 700 Indians have secret Swiss accounts.

The list of Indians possessing undeclared bank accounts was given to India by the French govt a few months back. Sources in the tax dept have revealed that the disclosed amount range from Rs 50 crore to Rs 300 crore. Those who have been named in the list have opted to file a 'revised return' that allows taxpayers to have one more chance to file the original returns in case of a mistake in doing so in the first instance. The provision is allowed under the Income-Tax Act.

Giving taxpayers a chance, the I-T dept has summoned the alleged evaders and have asked them to declare the undisclosed offshore deposits rather than going the legal way and start prosecution proceedings. The reason for doing so, according to the Tax department is that they do not have enough manpower to go after the 700 people and the other reason being that the Indian side will not be able to verify the list with HSBC Switzerland since the information was stolen.

The reasons mentioned have led to authorities taking a more soft approach towards these tax evaders who have parked their money abroad. The stolen information was obtained by a former HSBC employee that was handed over to the French authorities. The Swiss authorities will have to verify it first to be used later as evidence before the court of law. This makes the case more murkier and confusing.

A source in the know of the complexity of the situation commented, "If someone agrees to pay tax, there will be very little action against him. Otherwise, the department may not only use its powers, but also involve the Enforcement Directorate. Then, the party may face charges relating to violation of foreign exchange regulations and money laundering."

The Foreign Exchange Management Act and Prevention of Money Laundering Act comes under the jurisprudence of the Enforcement Directorate.

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