P. Chidambaram writes to Switzerland, seeks info on tax cheats

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: May 3 2014, 13:25pm hrs
PP. Chidambaram: 'Unusual' preconditions set by Switzerland were meant to refuse assistance. Reuters
Finance minister P Chidambaram , in a strongly worded letter, has asked Switzerland to provide details of the secret accounts held by Indians in HSBC's Swiss branches, saying the Centre has incriminating evidence of tax evasion by these individuals.

Rejecting the preconditions set by the European nation for information sharing, Chidambaram told his Swiss counterpart Eveline Widmer Schlumpf that not sharing details relating to these accounts would amount to Switzerland giving protection to tax offenders in India.

Chidambaram said the unusual preconditions set by Switzerland were meant to refuse assistance.

Switzerland had insisted that India needed to demonstrate that the investigations on these individuals were initiated independent of the data on HSBC account holders that India received from France under a bilateral treaty.

France had reportedly received the list of individuals holding the secret accounts from a disgruntled HSBC employee in 2011. Switzerland insisted that India should show its probe into those individuals back home was based on information already available with India.

It may kindly be appreciated that the refusal to provide assistance in cases where evidence has been collected by the Indian tax authorities, for the reason that the names of the persons concerned existed in the HSBC bank data, amounts to Switzerland providing protection to taxpayers found to have evaded Indian taxes and seriously undermines India's efforts in tackling offshore tax evasion and stashing of unaccounted income abroad, the minister said in the letter, a copy of which has been reviewed by FE.

Chidambaram also pointed out that the exceptions to mutual data sharing obligation specified in the Indo-Swiss double tax avoidance convention (DTAC) do not include the present situation where India is seeking details on data legally obtained from a third country under a bilateral treaty.

He said India would continue to take a position at the Global Forum about Switzerland lacking legal and regulatory framework for effective exchange of information.