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Updated: August 25, 2009 02:07 IST

India will take up specific cases with Swiss banks: Pranab

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Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. File Photo: Shanker Chakravarty
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. File Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

‘The Swiss bank—client confidentiality has never been 100 per cent absolute and Swiss legislators have built in provisions for it to be lifted during criminal investigations’

India told Swiss banks on Monday that it was not interested in a fishing expedition for details of the money stashed with them but will work on specific cases.”

They [Swiss Bankers Association] have not refused [to divulge information]. They have suggested they are not for fishing and we are also not interested in fishing their whole list [of bank accounts],'' Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters late in the night.

"We will also work on specific information and we will also like to follow the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development pattern,'' Mr. Mukherjee said.

He said India was currently engaged in negotiations on double taxation avoidance treaties with a large number of countries, including Switzerland. His comments come a day after Swiss banks said India was not welcome for a name-fishing expedition.

SBA's Head of International Communications James Nason had told PTI, "Swiss law and even OECD's Model Tax Convention do not permit fishing expeditions. In other words, the indiscriminate trawling through bank accounts in the hope of finding something interesting.

"This means that India cannot simply throw its telephone book at Switzerland and ask if any of these people have a bank account here.''

Double standards: CPI(M)

Earlier in the day, the government faced criticism from Opposition parties for not "properly'' pursuing efforts to unearth the illegal money stashed away in Switzerland.

The CPI(M) said the government was responsible for getting details of Indians who have stashed away illegal money.

"When the U.S. government can get the list of persons [who have illegally stashed money in Swiss banks], why can't the Indian government? ... It is the responsibility of the government. How can there be double standards?'' CPI(M) Politburo member Brinda Karat told reporters here.

Maintaining that "lakhs of crores of rupees'' have been kept in Swiss banks, she said the Left parties had demanded action by the government.

"We do not have any authentic knowledge about what has been going on. In Parliament, the Finance Minister had made a categorical statement that the government was talking to the Swiss authorities,'' Ms. Karat said. If this money could be brought back to India, it could be used for various developmental activities.

“Put pressure on Switzerland”

BJP president Rajnath Singh said India should mount “diplomatic pressure on Switzerland so that the black money of whichever country is deposited there can be exposed.''

The BJP had made the stashing away of illegal money by Indians in Swiss banks and other tax havens abroad a poll issue during the recent Lok Sabha elections.

It had promised to bring back the money if voted to power and said the amount would be used to fund several welfare schemes.

Mr. Singh said if the American government could get the names so could we. Germany and Ireland have also succeeded in getting names of account holders from their country.

The Congress said the government was doing all it could to get back the black money stashed in Swiss bank accounts.

"It is a matter concerning the government and it is seized of the matter. It is an issue of public interest and concerns the aam aadmi [common man]. The government is doing all it can under its jurisdiction,'' party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi told reporters here.

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