India, Switzerland improve cooperation on tax matters
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10.12.2015 02:49 Age: 2 days

India, Switzerland improve cooperation on tax matters


With India stepping up efforts to bring back illicit funds stashed abroad, Switzerland has said both sides have improved their cooperation on tax matters following several high-level meetings, reports the Economic Times.

Over the past few months, both countries have been working closely on mutual administrative assistance, according to the Swiss government.

In recent months, Switzerland has disclosed names of more than a dozen Indians about whom information has been sought by the Indian government amid suspicion that their accounts in Swiss banks were being used for stashing illicit money.

"Switzerland and India have been working closely together in the field of mutual administrative assistance over the past few months," a Swiss Federal Department of Finance spokesperson told PTI from Berne.

"Based on several high-level meetings, Switzerland and India have been able to improve their cooperation based on their DTA (Double Taxation Agreement)."

Swiss banks, known for their banking secrecy practices, have come under global pressure as countries, including India, are ramping up efforts to crack down on the black money menace.

Under bilateral treaty for administrative assistance and exchange of information on tax matters with Switzerland, India has sought details on individuals and companies that are suspected to have illegal funds in banks there.

Many requests are pending with the Swiss authorities who conduct their own due diligence before sharing information.

Against the backdrop of HSBC whistle-blower Herve Falciani being sentenced in absentia to five years in a prison by a Swiss federal court, the spokesperson said Switzerland does not consider requests that are based on information obtained through a criminal offence under Swiss law.

Indian authorities have been looking to get information from Falciani, whose 'Swissleaks' have been key to the country's black money probe.

"Switzerland may, however, examine requests for which investigations have been carried out independently from what the Swiss government considers as data obtained in breach of Swiss law," the spokesperson said.

The response came on a query on whether it would be against the principles of Swiss law for India to seek details from a person who has now been convicted by a Swiss court.

A former employee of global banking major HSBC, Falciani leaked details of account holders in Geneva branch of HSBC - a list that reached the French government and was subsequently shared with India as it had accounts of those Indians who had stashed funds abroad.

In November, Falciani said he was willing to "cooperate" with the Indian investigative agencies in their black money probe, but would need "protection".

Citing Switzerland's Tax Assistance Administrative Act, the spokesperson stressed that a request would not be "considered if it violates the principle of good faith, particularly if it is based on information obtained through a criminal offence under Swiss law".

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India, Switzerland improve cooperation on tax matters