The Indian government had the details of the overseas bank accounts of 75 individuals and entities named in the so-called ‘HSBC Geneva list’ even before Swiss authorities agreed this month to share this information with New Delhi.
The information had been given by HSBC itself following negotiations between the bank and Indian Income-Tax authorities in January 2013. HSBC made the details available earlier this year, before the NDA government came to power.
On October 15, following a meeting in Bern between Revenue Secretary Shaktikanta Das and the Swiss State Secretary for International Financial Matters, Jacques de Watteville, the countries issued a joint statement that said the “Swiss authorities would assist in obtaining confirmation on the genuineness of bank documents on request by the Indian side”.
The ‘HSBC list’ contains details of accounts held by 628 Indian individuals and entities at the Geneva branch of HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary, HSBC Private Bank. This information — categorised as name, address, account number and balance — was stolen from the bank by a former staffer, Herve Falciani, on a particular day in 2006, and was supplied to India by France in June 2011.
Indian authorities are currently in the process of investigating the HSBC list. According to Income-Tax documents accessed by The Indian Express, assessments are complete in 65 cases, including those decided by the Income-Tax Settlement Commission.
In the course of the negotiations with HSBC in 2013, a consent waiver scheme was devised to get around Swiss secrecy laws. Indian tax authorities obtained consent waivers from account holders and sent them to HSBC, which then released the details of the accounts.
Consent waivers were obtained in 174 cases — all of individuals/entities who had accepted that they held accounts in the bank — and details were obtained in 75 cases.
Assessments are now complete in 14 of these 75 cases. Assessments in the remaining 61 cases are nearing completion.
The 14 cases are part of the larger pool of 65 cases in which assessments have been completed. The larger pool includes cases in which information has been received through the consent waiver route.
In at least 27 cases (in the full HSBC list), Income-Tax has begun prosecution proceedings for non-furnishing of account details. In three cases — names that were revealed by the Centre on Monday — charges have been filed.
The Indian Express reported on Saturday that many accounts do not have a specific amount mentioned against them. There are 289 such names.
Also, in the list of 628 — 613 of whom are individuals and 15 are entities — 122 names are repeated. These 122 cases are in the nature of joint accounts, or of names jointly associated with accounts.
The Income-Tax investigation, which started in July 2011, has resulted in search and seizures in 142 cases, surveys in 8, open enquiries in 418, suo motu cases in 17, and discreet enquiries in 4 cases.