Not all Swiss bank money illegal: Piyush Goyal

Piyush Goyal. File photo   | Photo Credit: Shanker Chakravarty

Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said on Friday the reported 50% rise in deposits by Indians in Swiss banks could not be presumed to be a case of black money parked abroad. He added that the government would start getting details on bank accounts of Indians in Switzerland from next year under a bilateral tax treaty and strong action would be instituted against anyone found guilty.

The Minister was responding to news reports that money parked by Indians in Swiss banks rose to CHF (Swiss Franc)1.01 billion (₹7,000 crore) in 2017, reversing a declining trend over three years amid a “clampdown” on suspected black money stashed there.

In comparison, the total funds held by all foreign clients of Swiss banks rose only about 3%, to CHF 1.46 trillion or about ₹100 lakh crore in same period, according to data released by the Swiss National Bank (SNB).

Blames Chidambaram

Citing news reports, Mr. Goyal said 40% of the deposits was the result of the liberalised remittance scheme introduced by former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram. As per the scheme, an individual could remit up to $2,50,000 per year, he said.

Replying to reporters’ queries, Mr. Goyal said, “The data that you alluded to will come to us; so how are you assuming that this is black money or this is illegal transaction?”

“We will have all information if someone is found guilty, (and) the government will take strong action against them,” he said.

Not all Swiss bank money illegal: Piyush Goyal

Opposition queries

Reacting to the reports, the Congress and other Opposition parties targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his claims of retrieving black money stashed abroad. The JD(U), a BJP ally, also expressed “grave concern” over the surge in Indian deposits in Swiss banks.

Attacking Mr. Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “2014, HE said: I will bring back all the “BLACK” money in Swiss Banks & put 15 Lakhs in each Indian bank A/C. 2016, HE said: Demonetisation will cure India of “BLACK” money. 2018, HE says: 50% jump in Swiss Bank deposits by Indians, is “WHITE” money. No “BLACK” in Swiss Banks!”

The Congress said Swiss bank deposits had fallen during the UPA regime.

“Swiss Bank deposits fell during Dr. Manmohan Singh’s time, only to rise to record levels under PM Modi. The current increase of 50.2% post demonetisation is the maximum since 2004,” the party said on Twitter.

“What happened to Prime Minister Modi’s promise of eradicating corruption and bringing back black money?” asked Congress spokesperson R.P.N. Singh.

Demonetisation blamed

CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said while the money of Indians in Swiss banks rose, the Centre wrote off the corporate world’s loans worth lakhs of crores and allowed some businessmen to flee after looting public money.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee questioned how deposits in Swiss banks had surged while public sector banks in India were reporting massive losses.

“Bravo! #DeMonetisation? Swiss Bank money flying. India losing,” Ms Banerjee tweeted.

Almost exactly a year ago, in an address on the foundation day of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) on July 1, Mr. Modi had highlighted a record 45% drop in deposits by Indians in Swiss banks.

Jaitley defends

Backing Mr. Goyal, Union Minister Arun Jaitley posted on Facebook: “Indian' money outside the country is of various categories. Past investigation by CBDT has shown that this includes money held by persons of Indian origin who now hold foreign passport, monies belonging to Non-Resident Indians, as also monies belonging to resident Indians who have made legitimate investments abroad, including transfer of money under the liberalised remittance schemes. It is only monies kept by resident Indians outside these categories which become actionable.”

(With PTI inputs)

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 11:26:28 PM |

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