Switzerland has sent notices to at least 25 Indians in the past three months, giving them a chance to appeal against why it should not share their data with Indian investigative agencies, it has been reported. At least 11 such notices were sent to Indians on May 21 alone.
This batch of notices can be seen as part of Switzerland’s new initiatives in strengthening its banking practices, which was earlier infamously touted as a centre for tax havens. While India, alongside other foreign countries, was earlier provided with data of Swiss clients or companies suspected to have been involved in financial irregularities, neither the Indian government under Narendra Modi had revealed those names to the public, nor was some sort of action taken.
Reportedly, Indian clients of Swiss banks received the highest number of such notices in the past few weeks, compared with other countries. However, Switzerland’s gazette notifications on this matter redacted the full names of many bank’s clients but revealed their initials, nationality and date of birth.
Two persons, Krishna Bhagwan Ramchand and Kalpesh Harshad Kinariwala were sent notices in April and after receiving responses, they were served a fresh set of notices.
“Mrs A S B K (born November 24, 1944), Mr A B K I (born July 9, 1944), Mrs P A S (born November 2, 1983), Mrs R A S (born November 22, 1973), Mr A P S (born November 27, 1944), Mrs A D S (born August 14, 1949), Mr M L A (born May 20, 1935), Mr N M A (born February 21, 1968) and Mr M M A (June 27, 1973),” are among the list of redacted names in the Swiss gazette notifications.
According to Prof Arun Kumar, the Malcolm Adiseshiah Chair Professor at Institute of Social Sciences, these are just a few names put forward by the Swiss on Indian authorities’ request but there would be some thousands of Indians who have kept their money in Swiss banks.
“People depositing money would be using the layering process. For instance, people deposit money through shell companies registered in other jurisdictions, such as Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands and so on, such that the names of real depositors are hidden,” Arun Kumar told Newsclick.
In March, Switzerland had issued such notices to Mumbai-based Geodesic Ltd and its three directors -- Prashant Sharad Mulekar, Pankajkumar Onkar Srivastava and Kiran Kulkarni, and to Chennai-based Aadhi Enterprises Pvt Ltd -- who are being probed by the Indian authorities for their alleged involvement in money laundering and other financial irregularities.
Reportedly, several of these names are said to have figured in the leaked HSBC documents and Panama Papers that allegedly contained names of Indians with Swiss bank accounts and are being probed by Indian authorities in alleged black money cases.
This sharing of information is part of Swiss government’s adherence to the global standard on Automatic Exchange of Information, a global initiative which provides for the exchange of non-resident financial account information of clients with the tax authorities in their respective countries.
However, Arun Kumar said these global standards adopted in recent years were able to benefit only powerful countries, such as the US and the UK.