Switzerland on Wednesday said it was waiting for a “complete” request from India seeking help in probe against Hasan Ali Khan, even as the domestic enforcement agencies tightened their noose on the farm owner accused of having billions of dollars of black money in Swiss banks.
The Indian government had first sought freezing of Mr. Khan’s bank accounts in Switzerland way back in 2007. It had made several requests since then to the European country for help in probe against the Pune-based businessman, accused of having massive illicit wealth in foreign banks.
However, Swiss authorities have rejected all requests, saying they did not conform to necessary grounds for mutual assistance in this particular case and have asked India to submit a fresh request with certain facts and details.
Replying to a query on whether the Indian authorities have approached Switzerland with a fresh request for assistance in the case, a spokesperson for the Swiss Law Ministry told PTI that there was no such development so far.
Mr. Khan was arrested on Monday night by the Enforcement Directorate, after the agency carried out searches at his Pune home and that of his associates’ premises in several cities.
A day later, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked probe agencies to consider invoking terror and other stringent penal charges against 53-year-old Mr. Khan for his alleged links with arms dealers and people linked to terror activities.
The ED also submitted to the court, in a sealed cover, its status report on the probe into the case related to black money in which they also mentioned Mr. Khan’s arrest on Monday night.
The government also told the court that it would also furnish a status report on income-tax department’s probe.
India had last contacted the Switzerland government in August 2010 seeking legal assistance from the Law Ministry of the European nation in criminal proceedings for tax offences against Mr. Khan, the Swiss government official said.
In reply to this request, the Swiss Ministry, the Federal Department of Justice of Switzerland, had said that India needed to submit a “complete” request by corroborating about issues like suspected tax frauds to get the assistance.
However, the request has not been completed so far, the spokesperson for Swiss Law Ministry said and added that “Indian authorities may complete their request at any time.”
India had first sought legal assistance from the Swiss authorities in January 2007 in this case, but Switzerland can provide help only after India makes a request “complete” with facts corresponding to a fraudulent conduct of the accused, the official said.
Besides, the Swiss government’s internal probe in the case of Mr. Khan has found no reality in the presumed transfer of $6 billion to his accounts in Swiss bank UBS, the official added.
In reply to queries on this matter, the FoJ spokesperson provided an entire chronology of the case since 2007.
“In January 2007, the Indian authorities submitted in the context of criminal proceedings against Hasan Ali Khan (namely for money-laundering) a request for legal assistance to the FoJ. They asked the Swiss authorities to freeze his bank accounts and to hand over the relevant banking documents.”
In the same month, the FoJ informed the Indian authorities that “concerning the presumed transfer of $6 billions domestic inquiries have revealed that the supposed transfer to UBS accounts has no reality.”
On India’s request for help in the matter, the Swiss authorities replied that they needed specific details to “examine and possibly to accept and execute the request,” the official said.
These specific details included a confirmation that the Indian investigation is a criminal one (no tax or related investigation), a better description of the predicate offences which are object of the Indian money-laundering investigation and to show the relation between the predicate offences and the accounts in Switzerland.
The FoJ spokesperson said that the Indian Embassy in March 2007 submitted some complements to the FoJ.
However, the FoJ informed the Embassy in April 2007 that the complements did not include the necessary specification.
“Without these information the Swiss authorities cannot examine whether the conditions to grant legal assistance are fulfilled or not. Indian authorities have not submitted the necessary specification so far,” he added.
The FoJ spokesperson said that the Indian authorities submitted a new request for legal assistance in August 2010 in the context of criminal proceedings for tax offences.
However, even this request was not considered as “complete” with all the necessary specifications by the Swiss authorities.
“In the same month (August 2010), the FoJ told the Indian authorities: Switzerland does not grant mutual assistance for tax evasion. However, mutual assistance may be granted in cases of tax fraud (fraudulent evasion of duty and taxes by using false, forged or untrue information, documents etc.)” the official said.
The FoJ spokesperson added, “The Indian authorities may complete their request at any time, if fraudulent conduct is discovered in the Indian proceedings. The request hasn’t been completed so far.”