Opposition MPs Staged A Walkout From Rajya Sabha
With the Opposition targeting the government on the black money issue, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that the identity of 427 foreign account holders has been established, of which 250 have admitted to having these accounts.
Replying to a debate on the issue, Jaitley said though it would be a “one-day thrill”, it would not be wise to disclose these names at this stage since the countries where the accounts are held could refrain from providing information.
“The question is not whether to disclose the names, but how and when to disclose them,” he said. Asserting that the government was on the right track, Jaitley said it would “proactively chase” those having black money. Referring to the list provided by HSBC Bank, he said: “Of the 627 account holders, the identities of 427 have been established 250 of them have admitted to having accounts, making the government’s task easier. More cases are going to be filed in the coming weeks with regard to people figuring in the HSBC list. The government is going to be on the right track even if it takes extra time.”
The confidentiality clause prevents disclosure of names of foreign account holders unless they are prosecuted in a court of law, noted Jaitley. “We have to disclose the names in a very prudent and thoughtful manner. India has 92 Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAAs) with various jurisdictions, and except one with Romania, all have confidentiality clauses.
India is in the forefront of global efforts to fight the menace of black money, for automatic exchange of tax information. The initiatives have been taken at various fora like G20, OECD and FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) are being proposed by the US,” he said.
Responding to criticism from the Opposition, Jaitley said, “We have done more in 100 days than what other governments had done.”
Congress leader Anand Sharma, who initiated the debate, said: “It is not only Switzerland, there are 42-50 other tax havens in the world. We (UPA government) had got into an agreement with 80 countries to reveal information about such account holders.
Last year, Switzerland was not cooperative on revealing such information but they were told informally that they should not expect any bilateral cooperation from India in future.” Not satisfied with Jaitley’s response, the Opposition parties staged a walkout from the Rajya Sabha.