The government of Switzerland would be ready to reveal the names and bank account details of Indians who have stashed away billions of dollars of black money in Swiss banks once the Indian Parliament ratifies the revised Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement that was recently signed between the two countries.

This was stated by Tarun Vijay, Bharatiya Janata Party national spokesperson and Member of Parliament, in a statement on Wednesday.

He said that in ‘the first-ever move to contact the Swiss government directly’ to disclose have the names of Indians who have salted away unaccounted for money in Swiss banks, he met Christa Markwalder, president, Foreign Affairs Committee (Presidentin Aussenpolitische Kommission des National Rats) of the Swiss Parliament on October 5 in Zurich.

The BJP national spokesperson said that Markwalder was happy to learn about the BJP’s interest in this matter, and added, “We have already signed a protocol about it with the Indian government recently and I was in India for that. I met your Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and gave all the details about how the matter can be resolved to India’s satisfaction,” she said.

Markwalder said, “We too are eager to have the treaty ratified by the Indian Parliament so that the curtain on the Indians’ accounts in Swiss banks can be raised. We want the credibility of the Swiss government protected and enhanced in the eyes of the world.”

The issue of Indians having secret Swiss bank accounts is a political hot potato and was a poll plank during last year’s general elections.

Swiss banks had said that exchange of information would be based on Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development norms. Paris-based OECD sets the international tax standards.

Switzerland is entering into revised tax pacts with many countries in accordance with OECD’s Model Tax Convention, to facilitate the bilateral exchange of information related to bank account details of tax evaders.

Markwalder added that the Swiss government was under pressure from G-20 nations to have the names of black money stashers revealed in order to help the economies of many countries. “That is why we are pushing the agenda,” she said.

India and Switzerland on August 30, 2010 signed the revised Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement, a move that is expected to help the Indian government seek details about illicit wealth allegedly stashed away by Indians in Swiss banks.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey signed the revised pact in New Delhi.

“The revised Double Taxation Agreement contains provisions on the exchange of information in accordance with the OECD standard, which were negotiated in line with the parameters decided by the (Swiss) Federal Council,” the Swiss Federal Department of Finance (FDF) said in a statement.

However, Tarun Vijay expressed surprise that the United Progressive Alliance government has remained “tight lipped over how and when this protocol would be ratified in the Indian Parliament”.

He said that BJP, India’s largest opposition party, was anxious to have the procedure completed soon and hoped that the Indian government would ratify the treaty soon in the coming session of Parliament. “The BJP will work to get this done,” he affirmed.

He added that he had given the details of the black money issue to Markwalder and impressed upon her the importance of why it was imperative for India ‘to get back the black money stashed in Swiss banks by Indians’.

Reportedly, more than $1.4 trillion (Rs 62 lakh crore) of Indian black money has been illegally hoarded in various Swiss banks.

Tarun Vijay said that BJP president Nitin Gadkari has resolved that the party will not leave any stone unearthed to have the curtains on the Swiss accounts issue raised. He also extended an invitation to Christa Markwalder to visit Indian on behalf of the BJP president.

The revised treaty between India and Switzerland is also likely to ensure that in the future, shipping companies operating internationally would have to pay tax on their profits only in their country of domicile.

Currently, India has DTAAs with as many as 79 countries but all of them do not have provision for exchange of information related to taxation.

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September 2021