The Narendra Modi led BJP government’s Finance Ministry refused to share details of Indians holding accounts in Swiss bank citing “confidentiality provisions” of a tax treaty signed between India and Switzerland in 2010.
The Ministry also denied the specifics of black money obtained from other foreign countries in a response to an RTI question.
Responding to an RTI application filed by Ashwini Shrivastva, the Finance Ministry said, “Information exchanged under such tax agreements is covered under confidentiality provisions of respective agreements. Thus, disclosure of tax related information and information sought/obtained from foreign governments is exempted under section 8 (1) (a) and 8 (1) (f) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.”
Narendra Modi came to power promising that “his might” will bring all the “black money” back to country and those having accounts in Swiss banks will not be spared.
The RTI section cited by the Ministry bars the disclosure of information that would have a detrimental effect on India’s sovereignty and dignity, its defense, its scientific or economic interests or its relations with the foreign State. It also allows the government to maintain secrecy if disclosure of information may lead to incitement of an offense or information received in confidence from a foreign government.
It is understood to be the breach of promise that Narendra Modi made before coming to power in 2014. “I will bring back every rupee stored away in foreign banks and ensure it is used for the rehabilitation of the poor,” said Modi before the Lok Sabha elections in 2014.
As soon as Narendra Modi came to power, Amit Shah, the then president of the Bharatiya Janata Party and now the current Home Minister of the country had said in 2015 that “Modi ji’s statement was just a jumla. Everybody knows black money won’t be deposited in bank accounts of people.”
India got the first set of Swiss bank account details of its nationals in September. It is one of 75 countries with which Federal Tax Administration (FTA) of Switzerland has exchanged data on financial accounts.
The fear, however, is that after a global crackdown on black money, many Indians might have shut their accounts. It was the long-held perception that banks in Switzerland are safe haven for undisclosed funds.
Narendra Modi, even after becoming the Prime Minister of India has time and again said that he will bring the black money back to the counrty. In fact, one of the three objectives of demonetisation announced by the Prime Minister in November 2016 was that it would end up corruption within the country. Some twitter users remembered demonetisation phase.
“People depositing money use the layering process through shell companies registered in other jurisdictions, such as the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, and so on, so that actual depositors ‘ names are concealed,” said Arun Kumar, former professor of economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. “There would be some thousands of Indians who have kept their money in Swiss banks.,” he added.
Connecting the non-disclosure of the list by the current, Saket Gokhale, famous activist wrote on Twitter, “If the list was disclosed, how will (The PM) be able to use it to blackmail to get more money through electoral bonds from these people (in the list).
Some twitter users also posted photo of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s meme.
In July last year a well, the Finance Ministry had refused to disclose information on black money held by Indians within India and beyond saying that disclosure of any such information would constitute a breach of privilege of Parliament.