India’s Attorney General Mukul Rohatagi addressing the media outside the Supreme Court after a hearing on the black money case in New Delhi, Oct. 29. (Subhav Shukla | PTI)
India’s Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi submitted a list of 627 names having accounts in HSBC bank, Geneva. These names were earlier shared with the SIT. Justice Shah said there will be more prosecution of people who have stashed black money within the reasonable time. A Press Trust of India report.
The Supreme Court-appointed SIT, looking into the black money cases, said it will go after the offenders “big or small” and will submit its report by the first week of December.
It also made clear that confidentiality about account holders abroad will not be violated. The SIT said it was gathering more names other than the over 600 account holders in HSBC bank, Geneva, given by the government to Supreme Court, for investigation.
“The second report would be given to Supreme Court on December 3 or 4,” Justice Shah told PTI after a meeting of SIT members. Its first report was submitted in August this year.
“Before us, nobody is big, nobody is small. Everybody is equal. Whoever has looted this country will be caught and will be punished, economically and otherwise also. That we assure,” Vice Chairman Justice Arijit Pasayat said.
Justice Shah said up till now they have decided a number of cases against the big personalities of the country. “We won’t bother who is big. We will treat them equally with a poorest person of the country,” he said. Both are retired judges of Supreme Court.
Amidst a raging debate over disclosure of names of foreign bank accounts holders that could threaten future cooperation with other countries, the SIT chairman said confidentiality agreement cannot be violated.
“Confidentiality is an international agreement. You cannot violate the agreement. If you violate it, further information would not be given by them and confirmation by other country is necessary. There is a proof that man is having that account. That proof you won’t get it,” he said.
Justice Shah said the investigation against people accused of stashing money abroad is going on at “very fast” pace and necessary action will be taken against them.
“The investigation in all black money cases is going on at a very fast pace and all the agencies have their task clear. I am sure it will give us good results. I don’t think the speed is slow as investigation of tax and other such cases involves procedures of law. The agencies are doing it and the SIT is seeing that,” he said.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi submitted a list of 627 names having accounts in HSBC bank, Geneva. These names were earlier shared with the SIT also.
Justice Shah said there will be more prosecution of people who have stashed black money within the reasonable time. The SIT is also sharing data with other agencies to help it in speeding up its probe, he said.
Justice Shah said there is no problem in sharing of information among various members of the SIT. “There are some cases with the ED and CBI also and there is no problem of sharing. Everything that can be shared is being shared,” he said.
To a question, the SIT chief did not rule out the possibility of black money being routed through foreign banks.
“They must be … For the time being we are not having that information,” he said.
The joint secretary (revenue) in the finance ministry is member secretary in the SIT.
The JS (Revenue) is coordinating with all the agencies and there is no problem in sharing of information, official sources said.
The SIT, which was notified on May 29, has held its first meeting on Jun 2.
Members of SIT includes the revenue secretary, deputy governor of Reserve Bank of India, directors of Intelligence Bureau (IB), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
Besides, chairman of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), directors general of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and DRI, and joint secretary (Foreign Tax and Tax Research Division-I) are also members of the group. The SIT is responsible for investigating cases of black money stashed abroad through coordination of various members.
Information Can’t be Disclosed Outside Specific Proceedings: Swiss Government
In a recent debate on disclosure of names of suspected black money holders, Switzerland said information exchanged under Swiss-India tax treaty cannot be disclosed “in principle” to a court or any other body outside the proceedings of a ‘specific and relevant’ case.
The comments come at a time when a Supreme Court-monitored Special Investigation Team is probing alleged stashing of black money by Indians aboard, including Swiss banks.
Switzerland, long accused of being a safe haven for illicit funds, has promised to extend assistance to India and reply to requests for information in a time-bound manner on cases of alleged tax evasion and financial crimes, or provide a reason if no information can be shared.
Explaining the treaty provisions about disclosure of such secret information, a Swiss Finance Ministry spokesperson told PTI from Berne that the authorities from the two countries are having regular contacts on bilateral tax matters but refused to comment on particular cases.
The government gave to the Supreme Court a list of 627 Indians with accounts in a Swiss branch of HSBC bank, on which probe for suspected black money is underway.
While this list was given in sealed envelopes, three other names were made public a day earlier as prosecution had been launched against those persons.
There has been a debate on whether disclosure of names, without prosecution, could violate tax treaties under which these names and other details are shared by foreign countries.
Replying to queries in this regard, the Swiss Federal Department of Finance spokesperson said that the protocol to Swiss-Indian DTA (Double Taxation Agreement) states that any information received “by a contracting state shall be treated as secret in the same manner as information obtained under the domestic laws of that state.
The treaty further provides that “any such information shall be disclosed only to persons or authorities (including courts and administrative bodies) concerned with the assessment or collection of (information), the enforcement or prosecution in respect of, or the determination of appeals in relation to the taxes … or the oversight of the above.”
The Swiss Finance Ministry spokesperson further said the treaty states that “such persons or authorities shall use the information only for such purposes. They may disclose the information in public court proceedings or in judicial decisions.”
“Accordingly, the information exchanged under the terms of the DTA can be provided to a Court in situations where it is dealing with a specific case related to tax matters for which this information is relevant. Conversely, information cannot be disclosed in principle to a Court or another body outside of such proceedings,” the official added.
The list of 627 persons with accounts in a Swiss branch of HSBC bank was received by India from the French government, while it had earlier got another list of Indians with suspected black money accounts from Germany.