Swiss bullish on India, but won't share info on black money

08 December 2014

Switzerland expects to sign a free trade agreement with India and its companies are looking to pump money into ventures in India as Prime Minister Narendra Modi opens up the economy, but Geneva is not yet ready to share information on money stashed away in secret accounts in Swiss banks.

"A lot of progress has been made since formation of the new government under leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India and we are hopeful of signing the agreement soon," Swiss ambassador to India Linus von Castelmur said.

But, as India continues a desperate pursuit of black money allegedly stashed away abroad, Switzerland has said Indian authorities cannot ask for names of all Indian account holders in Swiss banks - that they have to do their own home work and that the Swiss authorities will not entertain any ''fishing expeditions.''

The Swiss envoy said while all money deposited in Swiss banks may not be tax-paid, his country's bank secrecy laws cannot be undone and that the Swiss government may provide help in instances where the Indian authorities have bona fide cases of tax frauds.

While Switzerland has been a major channel for ill-gotten wealth for several decades, the Swiss official said his country won't act on ill-gotten information on account holders - that it would have to be independently probed by Indian authorities.

''We understand and appreciate India's concerns on the matter. We need clear understanding on the issue,'' Castelmur said.

''I think one part of the issue is dealing with the past, and Switzerland was destination for several decades where money flowed in from difference sources and that was not always tax money,'' he said.

The amount of black money suspected to have been stashed by Indian in various tax havens, including Switzerland, is yet to be ascertained and Indian authorities and tax experts expect these to run into several billion dollars.

The Indian authorities, both in the past and in the present, have been working with the financial authorities of various foreign tax havens to bring back the black money.

The government recently said it had reached some breakthrough on a new agreement with the Swiss authorities for cooperation on sharing of details about alleged black money holders in Swiss banks, but that is all for the future.

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