The Finance Ministry has declined to share Swiss bank accounts details of Indians saying it is covered under “confidentiality provisions” of a tax treaty signed between India and Switzerland.
In reply to an RTI query, the ministry also refused to disclose the details of black money received from other foreign countries.
“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,” it said in response to the RTI application filed by this PTI journalist.
The section 8 (1) (a) bars disclosure of information “which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence”.
The other section exempts disclosure of “information received in confidence from foreign government“.
The ministry was asked to provide the details of information received from Switzerland related to accounts of Indians in banks there. It was also asked to provide the details of information received from foreign countries on black money, including details of such cases shared with India.
India had in September got the first set of Swiss bank account details of its nationals under a new automatic information exchange pact.
India is among 75 countries with which Switzerland’s Federal Tax Administration (FTA) has exchanged information on financial accounts within the framework of global standards on AEOI or Automatic Exchange of Information.
It is feared that many Indians might have closed their accounts after a global crackdown on black money led to Switzerland buckling under international pressure to open its banking sector for scrutiny to clear the long-held perception of Swiss banks being safe haven for undisclosed funds.
Switzerland agreed to AEOI with India after a long process, including review of necessary legal framework in India on data protection and confidentiality.
The National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), that was one of the three institutes commissioned in 2011 by the then UPA government to conduct a study on black money, has estimated wealth accumulated outside India between USD 384 billion and USD 490 billion during the period 1980 to 2010.
Another institute — National Institute of Financial Management (NIFM) — had in its findings said the results of estimation suggest that total illicit outflow at the present value (including opportunity cost) from India in the reform period (1990-2008) is Rs 9,41,837 crore (USD 216.48 billion).
Importantly, illicit outflows from the country are estimated on average to 10 per cent of the estimated unaccounted income.
During the period 1997-2009, illicit financial flows out of the country have been in the range of 0.2% to 7.4% of GDP, according to the National Institute of Public Policy and Finance (NIPFP).
These study reports of the NIPFP, NCAER and NIFM were received by the government on December 30, 2013, July 18, 2014, and August 21, 2014, respectively.
The findings of these reports were made public by the Standing Committee on Finance in its preliminary report submitted in the Parliament in March this year.