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Swiss bank shatters Indian dream of getting info on black money stashed abroad

Written By vibykhmer on Monday, August 24, 2009 | 1:31 AM

NEW DELHI, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- India's hope to acquire information on Indian black money stashed away in Swiss banks has finally shattered, with the latter refusing on Sunday to reveal any details, saying that "Swiss law and tax model convention don't permit name-fishing expedition" by a third country.

The blow to India came barely a week after Swiss banking giant UBS AG turned over details of 4,450 secret accounts to the United States, under an agreement agreed upon by the two.

The refusal by UBS AG has literally shattered Indian government's commitment to unearthing black money outside the country -- an issue that had raised much political heat during the general elections with the Opposition BJP making it a major poll plank, said political analysts.

"The Swiss banks have thrown waters on Indian aspirations. India is not United States. All these commitments before and after the general elections prove to be hollow now," said political analyst Professor Ajay Singh.

The Indian government was assuring the country something that is close to impossible. Why would the Swiss banks break their secrecy shield for India. The banking business thrives there on black money. In the United States, UBS got into a major financial problem and they agreed to divulge names only to get out of it," he added.

In fact, Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee recently said in Parliament that the government initiated a dialogue with Swiss authorities to obtain details on Indian black money stashed away in Swiss banks.

"Swiss authorities, I am told, have agreed for negotiations (on the issue)... We have already taken it (the issue of black money) not only with Swiss authorities but other nations as well," said Mukherjee, after the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government came to power for the second time in a row.

Mukherjee, at the same time, had also said that the government has no plans to bring in a new amnesty scheme for tax evaders, pointing out that in the past there have been complaints that the government was penalizing the honest tax payer as in every such scheme the normal rate of tax was reduced.

But, a top official at Swiss Bankers Association from Basel told an Indian news agency on Sunday: "Swiss law and even Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Model Tax Convention don't permit fishing expeditions, in other words, the indiscriminate trawling through bank accounts in the hope of finding something interesting. This means that India cannot simply throw its telephone book at Switzerland and ask if any of these people have a bank account here."

Political scientist Prof S.K. Gupta: "This is it. The long-awaited hope doesn't exist now, not at all. A study conducted by a professor of Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore has revealed that 56 percent of the black money deposited in Swiss Bank belongs to our Indians. The amount is approximately estimated to be 74,600billion rupees (around 1,500 billion U.S. dollars). All these moneys are believed to belong to people who earned by indulging incorruptions. Swiss banks won't betray clients by breaching secrecy contract to lose business."

Political science teacher Professor R.K. Choudhury said: "India has 1.4 trillion U.S. dollars more money in Swiss banks than rest of the world combined. Some 80,000 Indians travel to Switzerland every year, of whom 25,000 travel very frequently. Obviously, these people are not tourists. They must be traveling there for some other reason.

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