As a debate continues on alleged black money stashed by Indians in Swiss banks, India now accounts for nearly 42 per cent of total gold and silver leaving Switzerland shores — largest for any single country.
According to the latest official data from the Swiss government, its total export of gold, silver and coins in the month of June 2014 stood at 3.9 billion Swiss franc (over Rs 26,000 crore), out of which India alone accounted for 1.63 billion Swiss franc (about Rs 11,000 crore).
This has taken the overall Swiss exports so far in 2014 to 32.1 billion Swiss franc (about Rs 2.15 lakh crore). Of this, shipments to India have reached nearly Rs 50,000 crore (7.3 billion Swiss franc).
The latest data comes at a time when India has stepped up pressure on Switzerland to share information on alleged stashing of black money by Indians in Swiss banks.
Switzerland has committed to cooperate in India’s fight against black money and has also invited an Indian delegation to visit Berne for discussions in this regard.
However, a new strategy of ‘layering’ through gold and diamond trade has come to light at Swiss banks to thwart any attempt for identification of real beneficiary owners of funds entrusted with them, government and banking sources have said.
There is a growing suspicion that a portion of gold and diamond trade is being used to route funds from Swiss banks to India and other destinations.
At the same time, the banks in Switzerland have got new undertakings signed by their clients, where the customer agrees to take responsibility for any possible regulatory or administrative compliance with international norms.
‘Layering’ is a key stage in money laundering and involves moving illicit funds around the financial system through a complex series of deals to complicate the paper trail.
This layering typically takes place between the first stage — placement of black money in the financial system either in cash vaults, or through a series of cash or sham financial transactions — and before the final ‘integration’ stage when money is put back into the financial system through various transactions for the benefit of its final recipient.
Under global pressure, Switzerland agreed earlier this year to provide country-wise breakdown of its gold trade.
An analysis of the Swiss government’s bullion export data shows that India accounted for 41.91 per cent of total exports during June, up from 33 per cent in May and at just about 14 per cent at the start of this year. The gold exports to India in January 2014 stood at less than one billion Swiss francs, but has been consistently rising since then.
In contrast, Switzerland’s overall bullion exports had risen in February to over 8 billion Swiss francs, from about 7 billion Swiss francs, but fell for three consecutive months thereafter till 3.7 billion Swiss francs in May.
In June, Turkey came a distant second after India with less than USD 500 million Swiss franc of Swiss bullion export. Other major destinations were UAE, Singapore and Hong Kong, as also major economies like US, UK, China, France and Germany.