India has offered a ‘cash reward’ to a former HSBC bank employee-turned-whistleblower in exchange for any fresh information about its citizens holding illegal accounts in various tax haven countries, including in Swiss banks, as it looks to combat black money and unearth funds stashed away abroad.
Sources said that the government is ‘still awaiting’ a response to the offer it has made to former HSBC employee Herve Falciani after he hinted that he possessed additional information on the lines of the list of 628 Indian entities holding accounts with the bank in Switzerland's Geneva.
"Government has offered a cash reward deal to Falciani as part of its request seeking cooperation for obtaining information on black money cases which the whistleblower said he possessed.
"This is one aspect of the offer extended, as it also includes exchange of information as part of efforts of both stakeholders to crack down on black money and illicit funds across the globe," sources said, adding that ‘the money offered to him is as per government rules’.
However, they did not disclose the exact amount offered.
They said that the I-T department has sought from the whistleblower, who has interacted with media in the past, anything and everything he could share vis-a-vis Indian account holders and their associates in the information that he claims to have kept with himself.
As per rules, up to 30 per cent of the tax amount realised could be offered to whistleblowers who provide specific information on illegal funds.
The Finance Ministry had in February said that the Income Tax department was already in touch with Falciani, "who apparently brought out the names of persons holding undisclosed bank accounts in HSBC, Switzerland."
"He has been requested to share information available with him in respect of undisclosed bank accounts of Indians in HSBC, Switzerland, and other destinations. His response is awaited," it had said.
Officials said that Indian tax authorities, through the Special Investigation Team on black money and the Central Board of Direct Taxes, had placed an official request in this regard last year to Falciani.
"A reply is still awaited from Falciani, whose last known address was Paris," sources said.
The I-T department, meanwhile, has also filed a total of 77 prosecution cases in various courts in the country against those whose names appeared in the HSBC list earlier.
"The department is confident of finalising all assessment proceedings in these cases by the end of the current fiscal on March 31 as after this time period these cases will get time-barred and cannot be legally prosecuted in case they qualify for such action," they said.
Close to 100 prosecution cases are expected to be launched in this particular case, they said.
Undisclosed income of about Rs 3,150 crore (Rs 31.5 billion) has already been brought to tax on account of deposits made in these unreported or hidden foreign bank accounts.
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