India

India to seek 'black money' details from Switzerland

India notes being counted Image copyright AFP
Image caption Undeclared cash is seen as a major hurdle to India's economic growth

India has said it is writing to the Swiss authorities, seeking details of Indians who have parked untaxed wealth in Swiss banks.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's comments came after reports that Switzerland was sharing with Delhi a list of Indians holding "black money".

The Swiss said there had been no meeting with Delhi since February, but it was committed to fight tax evasion.

Indians are estimated to hold $500bn (£297bn) in overseas tax havens.

India recently set up a special task force to find "black money", in one of the first decisions taken by the government of the new prime minister, Narendra Modi.

"We are today writing... to the Swiss authorities with whom the ministry has been in touch so that details with regard to whatever information the authorities have can be expedited and the co-operation between the Swiss authorities and the government of India can bring fruitful results. Our communication will be sent today," Mr Jaitley told reporters on Monday.

"News has appeared in various sections of the media quoting Swiss authorities that they are willing to actively co-operate with the government of India in giving details about Indians who hold bank accounts in the Swiss banking system," he added.

Earlier, the Press Trust of India quoted a senior Swiss government official as saying that Switzerland had prepared a list of Indian names and the details were being shared with India.

"These individuals and entities are suspected to have held untaxed money in Swiss banks through structures like trusts, domiciliary companies and other legal entities based out of countries other than India," the official said.

A member of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed last month by India to investigate "black money" described it as a "breakthrough development".

In a statement on Monday, the Swiss embassy in Delhi said: "Switzerland understands and shares India's wish to fight tax evasion and is committed to complying with the relating international standards.

"Switzerland is committed to resolving any open question with India and trusts that India shares its understanding that any solution can only be found within the established national and international legal frameworks."

India says illegal funds are often sent to tax havens, including Mauritius, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the British Virgin Islands, and the new government has said "unearthing black money is an important issue" for them.

Analysts say this flight of capital has helped widen inequality in India.

The former Congress party-led government had been on the back foot on the issue of "black money" and corruption, and the supreme court has also chided the government for not doing enough to unearth illicit money.

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