Switzerland Current Affairs - 2019
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A High Level meeting took place in Berne between India’s Revenue Secretary and his Swiss counterpart, State Secretary for International Financial Matters to discuss tax matters. Various multilateral and bilateral tax and financial issues were discussed. Both sides agreed to keep the dialogue between the two countries open.
Outcomes of the meeting
In a major boost to India’s efforts to track black money allegedly stashed abroad, Switzerland has agreed to examine requests from India for banking information. The information will be provided in a time bound manner and requests from India will be considered on a priority basis.
Also, Switzerland will, on request by India, assist in determining genuineness of bank documents and speedily provide information on requests regarding non-banking information also.
If for any reason, the Swiss are unable to comply with Indian requests on a timely manner, they will communicate to the Indian officials, the reasons for the delay/non-compliance as soon as possible.
Statistics on Black Money
As per Swiss National Bank, the total money held by Indians in Swiss banks stood at over Rs. 14,000 crore as on December 2013, an increase of 42% when compared to the 2012 data.
Responding to the pressure coming from India and other nations, Switzerland has introduced key changes in its local laws pertaining to assistance to foreign countries in their pursuit of black money allegedly amassed in Swiss banks.
These amendments would allow India and other nations to make ‘group requests’ for information about suspected black money stashers, while Swiss authorities would not give prior intimation to suspected individuals or entities before exchanging their information. However, the burden would be on India (or any other country making request) to prove that any prior intimation to the account holders before information sharing would defeat the “purpose of the administrative assistance” and the success of investigation would be impacted.
In one of the main bottlenecks to effective and timely sharing of information with foreign authorities about suspected illegal account holders, the Swiss laws provide that the person concerned would be prior intimated of any such international assistance and he or she is also given an opportunity to appeal against this move and examine the files before being shared to the requesting country.
Although Switzerland has decided to hang on to these clauses in its amended Federal Act on International Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, it has now introduced at least 10 amendments in this Act to moderate its famed banking secrecy policies to improve its information-sharing framework. However, the new Act clearly stipulates that the Swiss authorities would not consider a request if “it constitutes a fishing expedition” or “if it violates the principle of good faith, particularly if it is based on information obtained through a criminal offence under Swiss law.”
][This would impede India’s endeavors to seek information on the so-called HSBC list, which Switzerland alleges that Indian and other foreign authorities got into their hands after a former bank employee stole data about customers.