Modi government avoids Berlin meet on black money disclosure

The Indian government, continuing to talk in double voices about the vexed issue of illicit 'black' money stashed by its citizens (including politicians) abroad, avoided attending a meeting in Berlin on Wednesday where a multilateral agreement requiring a commitment to follow international standards of confidentiality of information received on such black stashes was signed.

It was officially stated today that India was ''not able'' to attend the Berlin meeting, where it was to sign a multilateral competent authority agreement intended for a first information exchange date.

No reasons were given for the Indian absence.

At the meeting of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 51 countries signed the agreement to share financial data and boost efforts to crack down on tax evasion.

The signatories to the agreement include most European Union nations as well as tax havens like Liechenstein, the British Virgin Islands, and Cayman Island – some of the most touted tax havens for Indian black money, including by the previous Congress and the current BJP government.

Under the new agreement, the signatory states will begin automatically exchanging data collecte   financial institutions as early as 2017, the OECD said.

On a day the government provided to the Supreme Court a list of 627 individuals who have accounts in HSBC Bank, Geneva, government sources feared adverse consequences if the names get disclosed or come into the public domain (See: Black money: Govt submits list of 627 foreign account holders to SC).

The apex court had in 2011 clearly stated that disclosure of names against whom no evidence of wrong-doing was found would lead to "dangerous circumstances".

Commentators say despite the SC's later orders, the skipping of the meeting by India seems to indicate that despite its tall claims to honesty, the BJP is as averse to open revelations as any previous government.