The NDA government is sending a high-level delegation to Switzerland in a bid to persuade them to assist with details of the 700-odd Indians who have bank accounts with the HSBC Bank in Geneva.
This is being seen as the last-ditch attempt by the Indian government since the Swiss authorities have repeatedly denied access to any information during the UPA regime, leading to former finance minister P Chidambaram directly corresponding with his Swiss counterpart Eveline Widmer Schlumpf.
Next week, the Indian delegation, led by Revenue Secretary Shaktikanta Das, will hold consultations with his counterpart and other officials of the Swiss Finance Ministry. Others who will be traveling with him are Chairman of the Central Board of Direct taxes (CBDT) K V Chowdary and Joint Secretary (Foreign Taxation and Tax research) Akhilesh Ranjan, who is also India’s Competent Authority for these matters.
The delegation is expected to have their meetings on October 15.
Finance Ministry and CBDT officials said that besides trying to break the deadlock over information on the HSBC list, the trip will also be used to clarify if the Swiss authorities are holding any other data on Indian account holders as has been recently speculated in the media.
Some details of the 700 HSBC account holders, as first reported by The Indian Express, were obtained by India in 2011. The Swiss government has since been denying any more details, saying that the request dealt with data stolen by a HSBC employee and that their local laws do not permit information exchange where a possible criminal angle could be invoked.
Chidambaram had taken a tough line on the Swiss government’s stance and wrote to the Swiss Finance Minister that further non-cooperation could effect bilateral ties between the two countries. He had said that since India had confirmed tax violation issues existed for several among the list of 700 HSBC bank account holders, Switzerland should assist with banking transfer and account balance details under provisions of the Double Taxation Avoidance Convention signed between the two countries.