A high-level delegation of tax and revenue officials is set to soon travel to Switzerland in order to pursue cases of black money and secret accounts held by Indians in banks in the Alpine nation.
Sources said that the delegation, which will lay special focus on a number of pending requests, will be led by Revenue Secretary Shaktikanta Das and will have CBDT Chairman KV Chowdary and two other officials of the finance ministry’s foreign taxation wing as its members.
The official visit, sources said, was set up in quick time after the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) was taken into confidence by investigative agencies that a one-on-one visit between the officials of the two countries was necessary to take the probe in these cases forward.
“The meeting will happen during this week,” sources said.
Officials said that the decision to send the team has also been cleared by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and the officials would be armed with legal documents, dossiers and the charter of the SIT to satisfy the Swiss authorities as to how much “importance India is giving to unravelling the facts in these cases keeping in mind public sentiments and the government’s commitment to unearthing black money“.
The upcoming meeting will be the first high-level one between the officials of the two countries after the Narendra Modi government came to power at the Centre with a poll-time promise that it would probe all cases of illegal funds stashed away abroad and ensure legal action in them.
The visit comes against the backdrop of Switzerland refusing to share details on names obtained by Indian authorities through other countries, namely France and Germany, saying they figured in lists stolen by certain ex- employees of the banks concerned and no details can be shared on the basis of illegally-obtained information.
India has been asking Switzerland to cooperate in these cases under obligations of the bilateral Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) and the policies and guidelines framed by OECD, of which both countries are active members.
Sources said the delegation will meet top Swiss banking and government officials in a span of two days.
The last time the two sides met over these issue was in February this year in New Delhi. Finance Minister Jaitley had in July informed Parliament that Switzerland has raised some legal issues with regard to providing the details of Indian citizens who have parked illegal funds in Swiss banks.
Despite repeated requests from India, including through at least four letters written by former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Switzerland has maintained that its local laws prohibit administrative assistance in matters where information has been sourced illegally, including through stolen lists.