In an obvious rebuttal of the recent statement of CBI Director A.P. Singh on Indians being the largest depositors of illegal money in Swiss banks, Switzerland on Friday stated that “such estimates and statistics lack evidence and are uncorroborated.”
The Embassy of Switzerland, in a press statement, sought to “make a clarification in view of unsubstantiated media reports that have been recently published about Switzerland and Swiss Banks.”
Without referring to, though stung by, the CBI chief's estimates of illegal funds held by Indians in foreign locations, the statement said: “Switzerland is not a tax haven. There have been several speculations about the amount of wealth held by Indians in Swiss Banks. Such estimates and statistics lack evidence and are uncorroborated”.
Speaking at the inauguration of the first Interpol global programme on anti-corruption and asset recovery here on Monday this week, Mr. Singh said: “It is estimated that around $500 billion of illegal money belonging to Indians is deposited in tax havens abroad. Largest depositors in Swiss banks are also reported to be Indians.” He went on to state that India, in particular, “has suffered from the flow of illegal funds to tax havens such as Mauritius, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and British Virgin islands”.
Throwing more light on the issue, the Embassy statement said: “The Swiss government has been forthcoming in its cooperation with all foreign governments in cases of tax evasion as well as cases of tax fraud, that have been presented within the framework of bilateral treaties”.
The Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) between India and Switzerland, it said, provided a legal framework within which administrative assistance could be sought in particular cases of tax evasion or tax fraud. While the earlier treaty did not include tax evasion, but only tax fraud, the revised DTAA that came into force on October 7, 2011 allowed for exchange of information on tax fraud as well as on tax evasion cases.
As for its applicability, the statement noted that the provisions of the revised agreement applied in India to income originating in tax years starting on or after April 1, 2012, while in Switzerland, they applied to income originating in tax years that began on or after January 1, 2012. “In the case of the exchange of information, the provisions apply to information referring to tax years which start on or after January 1, 2011,” it said.
Meanwhile, the government said the CBI chief's statement was based on a report prepared and submitted by a committee appointed by the Supreme Court.
“I have spoken to the CBI Director and he told me that he made the statement on the basis of a report prepared by a Supreme Court-appointed committee … He [CBI chief] mentioned this [figure of US$ 500 billion] on the basis of this report,” Minister of State for Personnel V. Narayanasamy said.