Sandeep Joshi

“Advani has failed to assure people that steps would be taken to stop outflow”

NEW DELHI: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Saturday termed the Bharatiya Janata Party’s report on illegal Indian money stashed away in Swiss banks an “electoral gimmick.”

“The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government is equally responsible for this as it took various steps that led to an outflow of Indian money to foreign destinations,” senior CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said at a press conference here.

“[BJP’s prime ministerial candidate] L.K. Advani, who has been talking about Indian money stashed away in Swiss banks, has failed to assure people that effective steps would be taken to stop this illegal outflow of money. Ironically, even his party’s election manifesto talks about it,” Mr. Yechury said. He pointed out that if one went by the BJP’s own report on the issue, nearly $55 billion worth of illicit transfers took place between 2002 and 2004 when the NDA was in power.

Accusing the BJP of “plagiarism” as the Left parties were first to raise this issue and had asked the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government to act on it, Mr. Yechury said that during its rule, the BJP not only opened the “Mauritius route” for foreign investors but also allowed ‘benami’ transactions via Participatory Notes, abolished long-term capital gains tax and allowed partial capital account convertibility. “All these facilitated illegal outflow of money. Mere expression of concern is not enough; BJP should promise the people that it would ban all such illegal transactions.”

Claiming that around Rs.70-lakh crore in Indian money was stashed away in Swiss banks, Mr. Yechury said India should also ask the Swiss government to give details of accounts held by Indians in its banks to fight the economic slowdown, as was done by the U.S.

“The global financial meltdown and economic crisis have brought the issue of tax evasion by corporates, financial entities and the super-rich into sharp focus. Governments across the world are taking steps to crack down on tax havens like British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands. The Swiss banks are being asked to disclose information on their account holders in order to track down assets built through tax evasion. The Indian government, however, has so far remained impervious to this growing global concern,” the CPI(M) MP pointed out.

“In February this year, we asked the UPA government to take up the issue with Swiss authorities, but it failed to respond. If the government is serious about stopping black money and raising resources to meet the growing economic crisis, it must take steps to bring back the unaccounted wealth of Indians abroad. The money should be brought back to India and used to fund stimulus packages for industry and carry out development works,” Mr. Yechury demanded.

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