Friday, Sep 19, 2014

Make requests that are ‘justified': Swiss banks to India

The official dismissed the claims that black money stashed in Swiss banks by Indians could be trillions of dollar. (Source: PTI) "UBS applies the highest international standards worldwide in the fight against money laundering and corruption," said a UBS spokesperson. (Source: PTI)
Press Trust of India | New Delhi/zurich | Posted: July 6, 2014 5:31 pm

As India steps up pressure on Swiss authorities in its pursuit of alleged black money, banks in Switzerland say they follow strict rules and the
requests from Indian authorities must be “properly justified”.

The Association of Foreign Banks in Switzerland, an over four-decade old grouping, is also of the view that a clear and transparent policy can help in dispelling “apprehensions” and the “conjectures” should not be allowed to dominate the public opinion.

To bring back illicit money stashed away overseas, India has recently made a fresh request to Switzerland to seek bank details of such entities.

“India should be aware that its reputation in Switzerland as a country with a proper legal system and functioning rule of law has been seriously hampered as of late -– for reasons not related to financial matters. But the mistrust spills over in other matters,” the Zurich-based association’s General Secretary Martin Maurer.

Indian money in Swiss banks rose 43 per cent last year to close to 2.03 billion Swiss francs (Rs 14,000 crore), as per the latest data from Switzerland’s central banking authority Swiss National Bank (SNB).

Incidentally, two ‘big banks’ in Switzerland — UBS and Credit Suisse — account for nearly two-third of such funds.

When contacted, an UBS spokesperson said, “While we do not comment on specific cases, UBS applies the highest international standards worldwide in the fight against money laundering and corruption.

“Over the years, UBS has further strengthened and enhanced its anti-money laundering policies, ensuring it has one of the highest standards  with respect to corroboration and verification of sources of wealth.”

A spokesperson for Credit Suisse also said, “We conduct our banking business in strict compliance with the applicable laws, rules and regulations in the markets where we operate, and our employees receive ongoing training in this area.”

The banks in Switzerland apparently also follow a code of conduct framed by another grouping, SBA (Swiss Bankers Association), with regard to due diligence process and measures required to check money laundering and other illegal activities.

When contacted, an SBA spokesperson declined to give any specific details and said that “the Swiss Bankers Association has published a number of guidelines, to which its member-banks adhere and which amend to the Swiss jurisdiction”.

With regard to a renewed debate in India on possible tax evasion by Indians through Swiss banks and a potential assistance between the two countries in this regard, the SBA spokesperson said, “We are aware of reports in Indian media about alleged exchange of information between Swiss and Indian authorities.

“Yet, we are not informed about any exchanges of information as brought forward.

“It is to say that India and Switzerland have, in 2010, signed a revised double taxation agreement in the area of taxes and income. Based on that continued…

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