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'Claim that $1.4 trn is stashed in Swiss banks is nonsense'

Last updated on: March 31, 2011 19:17 IST

Image: Inset: Philippe Welti.
Photographs: Reuters Business Standard

The fact is, says Philippe Welti, Swiss Ambassador to India, that there is a prescribed procedure in a treaty with India to get information on illegal stashes in Swiss bank accounts, which hasn't been used.

More, a simpler method, covering more areas, is shortly coming into force.

Meanwhile, the figures widely spoken of as stashes there are pure "nonsense", he tells the CNN-IBN television channel. Excerpts:


'Claim that $1.4 trn is stashed in Swiss banks is nonsense'

Image: Switzerland is negotiating revision of treaty.
Photographs: Reuters

Do you think the Indian govt has done enough to dredge information on money in Swiss banks?

We have had many years of a treaty which allows data release on request in cases such as tax fraud. It's for the Indian Government to decide when to file such requests.

We have also negotiated with India a revision of the treaty, which would allow release of data in cases of tax evasion, too.

Are you saying the Indian Government has so far filed not a single request before the Swiss Government?

I haven't had to deal with one in my time.


'Claim that $1.4 trn is stashed in Swiss banks is nonsense'

Image: Switzerland says tracing illegal money is becoming easier.
Photographs: Reuters

You are saying that release of data from Swiss agencies have now become simpler. The government has been saying that getting data out of Swiss institutions is very difficult.

That is wrong to say. It's becoming easier: That's a very clear determination of the Swiss Government, to make it easier. The fundamental requirement is to stick to the treaty and procedural's all about rule of law.

You're saying you need to have some preliminary evidence to apply for the data you want out of Swiss banks?

Yes. You have to have a case but it doesn't mean you need to know everything of the case...If you have a good case, sufficient evidence, and you can designate the person or the bank account - you can even have cases where the bank account is enough, even if you do not have the name.


'Claim that $1.4 trn is stashed in Swiss banks is nonsense'

Image: Indian agencies should approach the Swiss Government, not banks.
Photographs: Reuters

So, things have become easier but, of course, stick to the rules.

Several Indian agencies look into tax fraud and money laundering - Enforcement Directorate, CBI, Income Tax department. All these agencies have categorically said they have visited Switzerland, they have requested for data and information from Swiss banks but failed to get anything on people they suspect.

If such agencies have tried and were unsuccessful, I was not aware of that. My tentative answer would be that they probably tried directly with the banks but that is against the rules. It has to go from one government to the other and the channel for the communication is the foreign ministries.


'Claim that $1.4 trn is stashed in Swiss banks is nonsense'

Image: Revised treaty is awaiting Swiss Government nod.
Photographs: Reuters

That is the agreed channel and outside this channel, there is no way you can go and ask for data. This is a question of rule of law.

You are indirectly suggesting the Indian Government may not have gone about it in the proper way, as signed in the treaty?

I am not commenting on the past but the treaty which is valid now is already a good basis for filing requests. The revised treaty which will soon come into force would be an even better ground.

You are only awaiting ratification from the Swiss Government on this revised treaty?

Yes, that's the next step.


'Claim that $1.4 trn is stashed in Swiss banks is nonsense'

Image: Figure quoted of illegal money in Swiss banks is nonsense
Photographs: Reuters

How soon?

It's not for me to judge the parliamentary work but my personal guess is a few weeks or few months.

What do you say to some figures quoted in the Parliament of India, where its been said $1.43 trillion is stashed in Swiss bank accounts? Do you agree with any such figure?

That figure has been repeated to me many times by journalists, who copy each other. The figure is pure fantasy. This magic figure is, sorry...nonsense!

Source: source