Voices Monday, June 23, 2014 - 05:30
Chitra Subramaniam| The News Minute| June 23. 2014| 3.30 pm IST Among a handful of critical promises, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said his government will work to retrieve India’s monies and assets stored and held in tax havens outside the country. Switzerland, which manages 30 percent of global assets under management (AUM) is one country among several others where people park their illegal assets. So when on Sunday when a national news wire in India ran a report saying Switzerland was reading y list of names to be handed over to the Indian government, two questions arose. Firstly, why was such an important story being told by an anonymous “Swiss official” on a Sunday? Secondly, had the Swiss government deviated from standard operating procedures to prepare a list in anticipation of work with India’s newly-constituted Special Investigating Team (SIT)?  As a corollary, two other questions arose. If both of the above were true, why didn’t the government of India release the news story? If both of the above were untrue – and the story was a plant – who stood to gain from the leak which has now embarrassed the Narendra Modi government?  Officials in the Federal Finance Ministry in Switzerland were equally baffled by the Indian news story which was picked up not only by the Indian media but also ran on international wires and news services.  Mario Tuor, a spokesperson for the Federal Finance Ministry told The News Minute that the Swiss government is not preparing any new lists of Indians with illegal accounts in Switzerland. Read- Not readying any new list of Indians with black money: Swiss Federal Finance Ministry to TNM The News Minute (TNM) has been following this story and reported on June 2, 2014 that some names had been handed over to the Indian government in May, 2014. See Here.  On Monday calm seems to have returned after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley clarified that the Finance Ministry was not in contact with the Swiss government on this matter. It is hoped that the “Swiss official” who briefed the Indian news agency backs up the claims failing which the story will be seen as a plant aimed at undermining Indian efforts to work with the Swiss government.  A few weeks ago Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal brandished what he claimed was a list of account numbers of Indian politicians and businessmen in Switzerland. This trick has been tried earlier and has contributed to nothing more than drawing ridicule towards Indians and Indian officials. In yet another instance, Amitabh Bachchan’s name was planted with the Swiss government as a recipient of kickbacks in the Bofors case, and this was proved to be false.  Anyone with an understanding of Swiss administrative assistance in matters of tax evasion and fraud or assistance in criminal matters will tell you that no lists exist, certainly not a ready-made one as implied in the wire story. It is important to note that many Indians have legal businesses in Switzerland and deal with Swiss banks on a regular basis.  One section believes the leak could have come from the government itself keen to keep up the image of a government acting to deliver on campaign promises while others say it could be the work of people no longer in government, but keen to undermine this work.  Whatever be the case, the damage this kind of hit-and-run stories can do is serious, not just to the credibility of the Modi government, but also to international business and investments India is now wooing to kick-start the economy.

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