By: ENS & PTI
Two Indian women figure among scores of foreign nationals with Swiss bank accounts whose names have been made public by Switzerland in its official gazette for being probed in their respective countries.
The Swiss Federal Tax Administration (FTA) has asked the two women, Sneh Lata Sawhney and Sangita Sawhney, to file an appeal within 30 days before the Federal Administrative Court if they do not want their details to be shared with the Indian authorities under their mutual assistance treaty on tax matters.
Sneh Lata Sawhney was among the names reported by The Indian Express on February 9, 2015 as part of its “Swiss leaks” investigation. The Indian Express, in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and Le Monde, had revealed that there were 1,195 Indians who held HSBC Geneva accounts, almost double the 628 names received by the Indian government.
Sneh Lata Sawhney featured as a joint account holder with her husband, Bhushan Lal Sawhney, the managing director of Sawhney Tyres. The account was opened in 1970 and its maximum balance in 2006-2007 was Rs 12.64 crore. Along with their son, Praveen Sawhney, the family had a combined balance of Rs 16.7 crore.
Other than their dates of birth, the FTA, however, has revealed no further details on the two women. Similar is the case for other foreign nationals including the British, Spanish and Russians. In the case of American and Israeli citizens, their full names have been withheld and they have been identified only by their initials and dates of birth.
At least 40 such “final notices” have been published in the Swiss Federal Gazette this month, while more such names are expected to be made public. The notices for the two Indian women and many others are dated May 12, while other such notices are dated May 19 and May 5.
The Indian government has been pushing the Swiss authorities to share information on the suspected tax evaders. According to a report in the Sonntagszeitung weekly, the Swiss authorities have been “inundated with requests for assistance” and the countries that sought to know details about their suspected tax-dodging citizens included “France, Germany, Russia, India and half-a-dozen other countries”.
“Now, the authority will publish the names of those affected in the Federal Gazette, which is available to everyone on the internet,” it said, while adding that those being named may include “well-known personalities”.
The report said banks do not have much interest in contacting such customers as many no more hold the accounts. It further added that questions have been raised about requests made by India and Germany being based on stolen data.
The report, however, quoted FTA’s Alexandre Dumas as saying, “We are never sure if they are stolen data. However, there is the principle of faith”.
Committing full support to India’s fight against black money, Switzerland last week said its parliament would soon consider changes in laws to look into the possibility of sharing information in cases being probed on the basis of stolen data of Swiss bank accounts.
Switzerland’s Economic Affairs Minister Johann Schneider Ammann during his India visit on May 15 said that the Swiss government was sensitive to the fact that the issue of black money was very important for India and needed to be resolved.