Going by the earlier track record of the Swiss government on sharing information regarding 'black' money stashed in their banking system, it seems, finance minister Arun Jaitley's letter to Switzerland's Federal Department of Finance is not going to cut much ice.
At least four letters, including one written one-and-a-half-month ago by the Congress government, have not elicited any response from the Swiss authorities. Finance minister Jaitley's letter to the Swiss authorities is the fifth letter from the government of India on matters pertaining to black money stashed by Indian tax payers in Swiss banks.
Despite India's efforts, the Swiss authorities have not taken any steps to respond. A senior finance ministry official told dna: "No communication has been received from the authorities yet in response to the earlier letters sent to the Federal Department of Finance of Switzerland."
Senior officials told dna that any communication whatsoever from India is futile, unless the Switzerland government ratifies the Declaration on Automatic Exchange of Information in Tax matters, which both India and Switzerland signed on May 6 2014, under the auspices of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).
Interestingly, former finance minister P Chidambaram wrote to the Swiss Authorities on May 15 — a day before the counting of votes for the 2014 general elections — urging them to ratify the convention.
The letter addressed to Eveline Widmer Schlumpf, head of the department of finance, read: "I would urge you and your government to ratify the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters as early as possible. Once you ratify the Convention, I am confident that your government will abide by its obligations under the convention as well as under the declaration that your country signed on May 6, 2014. I look forward to a favourable response from you."
dna has a copy of this letter.
Switzerland authorities, meanwhile, maintain that whatever information India is seeking is unofficial, since it is based on stolen data. "We have not received any communication from the new Indian government as of now. But the earlier government (UPA-II) had sent requests which could not be processed as they all pertained to stolen or leaked data," said Mario Tuor, Switzerland's State Secretariat for International Financial Matters.
Some 46 countries signed the declaration apart from India and Switzerland. This allows exchange of tax information upon request, in an effort to address tax evasion. Mutual assistance, including exchange on request, simultaneous tax examinations and assistance in tax collection, spontaneous tax examinations abroad and protection of the rights of the tax payers are some of the aspects envisaged under the declaration. In addition to G20 members, 60 countries have already signed the convention and 30 more are in the process of applying for it.