Home INDIA & BEYOND Unclear whether SC will make public foreign accounts list

Unclear whether SC will make public foreign accounts list


New Delhi, Oct 28 :

Even as the entire list of black money account holders is due to be submitted Wednesday it is unclear if the Supreme Court will make it public.

The court Tuesday directed the government to reveal the account holders’ names by Wednesday, saying government doesn’t need to do anything other than pass on the information for the apex court to pass orders for further probe. There is a Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing into black money stashed away in foreign accounts.

supreme court 1The uncertainty, as of now, around the public disclosure of a list to be given in a sealed envelope, stems from the confidentiality clause under the Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty (DTAT) that India has signed with many countries, and which prevents making public the identity of the account holders.

Anncouncing that the government will provide the entire list, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Tuesday drew attention to the crucial aspect of the DTAT.

“Government also always has this suggestion to follow procedure in a way that reciprocating states, whose help we need, continue to cooperate with us,” he said.

The aim of the DTAT, that India has signed with many countries, is to avoid double taxation of income. The treaty can be bilateral or multilateral.

India has DTAT with over 80 countries and plans to sign more with others. The major countries with which it has signed the DTAT are the US, Britain, the UAE, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Switzerland, New Zealand and Mauritius.

The confidentiality, or secrecy clause forbids sharing of details obtained through such treaties with other law enforcement and investigation agencies.

Jaitley had earlier said the names of persons would be disclosed as and when the cases are filed in the court.

Regarding the names, sources here said there were also talks of not one but several lists, some allegedly stolen with little veracity. One list purportedly contains the names of around 700 individuals and entities based on information from French authorities. An employee of HSBC Holdings Plc’s Swiss branches had allegedly stolen this data.

Similarly, Germany had in 2010 furnished the names of some Indians with secret accounts in tax haven Liechtenstein’s LGT Bank. These names were part of about 1,400 stolen bank account details from there, the sources said.

Following a mid-October meeting in Berne between Revenue Secretary Shaktikanta Das and the Swiss State Secretary for International Financial Matters, Jacques de Watteville, the countries issued a joint statement that said: “Swiss authorities would assist in obtaining confirmation on the genuineness of bank documents on request by the Indian side.”

“The Swiss have agreed to provide us bank information of names that we will provide them after there has been an investigation and evidence collected against that person,” Jaitley told reporters here on the revenue secretary’s return from Switzerland.

In a major step that will aid India track and recover black money stashed abroad, G20 finance ministers agreed last month on allowing automatic sharing of all bank information with tax authorities at the end of each year, starting 2017.

At their meeting in Cairns, the ministers agreed to begin exchanging information automatically between each other and with other countries by 2017 or end-2018.

The deal will not only allow the countries to extract bank details for future, but they can also avail account balance information of the past five to six years upon request.