Centre to SC: have info on black money

Written by Press Trust of India | New Delhi | Updated: May 4 2009, 05:09am hrs
The government has submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court on the issue of black money stashed in foreign banks, stating it has received information about Indian account holders in a German Bank but did not reveal the names on grounds of confidentiality.

The affidavit was submitted in response to a PIL filed by former law minister and eminent jurist Ram Jethmalani and five others who have alleged that a whopping Rs 70 lakh crore was stashed in foreign banks and sought a direction to the Centre to take up with such banks, particularly UBS Bank, Switzerland, the issue of freezing of accounts of Indian businessmen, politicians and other influential persons illegally holding their assets in such financial institutions.

The PIL, which came close on the heels of BJPs prime ministerial candidate L K Advani as also the Left parties pressing the government to approach the foreign banks for bringing back the black money, was filed on April 22 before a Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan. The Bench had posted the matter for hearing on May 4 after additional solicitor-general Gopal Subramanium had promised to file the affidavit within 48 hours.

Refuting the allegations, the ASG had said the finance ministry had written to the German authorities in February and June 2008 when the issue appeared in the media seeking information about Indian account holders in LGP Bank there.

The 29-page affidavit filed by the finance ministry on Saturday said the German government made available the information after persistent follow up since February 2008 on condition of strict confidentiality of contents under the double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA).

It said the German government provided the information on March 18 this year about the Indian account holders in the LGT Bank, Liechtenstein.

Dismissing the PIL as wild, reckless and baseless allegation, the finance ministry said in a 29-page affidavit, There are no authentic figures about the amount of monies lying in those bank accounts.

It is submitted that the present petition presumably pertains to monies lying in foreign accounts which are exclusive of lawful and legitimate deposits which can be made by both Indian residents and NRIs, the affidavit said.

On the issue of deposits in banks in Switzerland, the affidavit said the government has acted with utmost expedition. The affidavit said in the past, Swiss authorities had consistently refused to share bank information regarding Indian residents but since the Swiss confederation intended to adopt the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) standards, it has agreed to negotiate for exchange of information on bank details.

Government of India has already approached the Swiss Government seeking renegotiation of Article concerning exchange of information in DTAA with them, the affidavit said.

On the allegation that unregistered FIIs had entered the stock market through participatory notes (PNs) and as such their credentials were not known, thus exposing the country to grave threat, the affidavit said the FII in India is subject to the Money Laundering ACT and KYC (Know your client) norms.