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France hands over list of 700 bank accounts in Switzerland

CBDT examines details of Indians with accounts in HSBC,Geneva; looks for tax evaders.

Written by Ritu Sarin | New Delhi |
August 7, 2011 2:45:40 am

After the list of bank accounts of Indians in Liechtenstein,it is the turn of HSBC accounts in Geneva. The government last month received a list of some 700 bank accounts in Switzerland from the French government and investigations are already underway to determine whether any of the account holders evaded taxes.

Officials in the Finance Ministry told The Sunday Express that details of the majority of the HSBC accounts had already been received through diplomatic channels while other account details were awaited.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is said to be aware of the developments and the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has been asked to scrutinise each account to probe possible tax evasion.

The Finance Ministry is learnt to have consulted Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati on the implications of the transfer of sensitive bank data and he is said to have pointed to provisions in Indian tax laws by which tax violations and criminality,wherever applicable,could be made out by using data received through such channels.

Sources said just as in the case of the LGT Bank in Liechtenstein,details of HSBC’s Indian account holders have emerged because a former employee stole data in 2008 and later handed these over to French authorities. Several countries including UK,Spain,Italy and France itself have used this data for tax evasion investigations.

Officials said that the information received by India is in the form of the account holder,passport number and address as it appears in the passport. The CBDT is understood to have constituted special teams comprising members of investigation units in Delhi,Mumbai and Kolkata to conduct “surveys” based on the HSBC bank details.

Names of several important Indian businessmen and corporates are said to be in the data received. The CBDT’s first attempt is to find out which of the account holders are NRIs,thereby getting benefits in computation of tax liabilities and possible violations.

Officials of the CBDT told The Sunday Express that “all tools of investigation” will be used in the case and that it could take a few weeks to estimate whether or not they were on a major black money trail involving big business houses.

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