A trove of secret documents from HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm has revealed names of 1,195 Indian account holders, roughly double the 628 names that French authorities gave to the Government in 2011, and their balances for the year 2006-07.
Besides prominent Indian businessmen, the list, which was released by the Indian Express on Monday, contains the names of few account holders with political connections like former UPA minister Preneet Kaur, former Congress MP Annu Tandon, family members of former Maharashtra chief minister Narayan Rane and Bal Thackeray's daughter-in-law Smita Thackeray.
Sheela Bhatt/Rediff.com had -- three months ago -- first divulged the names on the HSBC accounts.
We republish the October 27, 2014 feature:
Preneet Kaur, the former minister of state at the ministry of external affairs in the United Progressive Alliance government, and Narayan Rane, former Maharashtra chief minister and till recently a Congress minister in the Prithviraj Chavan-led government in the state, have neither confirmed or denied the allegation that they or members of their family held bank accounts in the Geneva branch of the HSBC Bank's Swiss subsidiary.
According to a reliable source, the names of 'Preneet Kaur' and a name similar to one of Narayan Rane's sons allegedly feature on the HSBC list of Indians with Swiss bank accounts.
The list has the names of 628 Indians who allegedly hold bank accounts in Switzerland. The names were provided to the Government of India by the French and German governments.
Rediff.com e-mailed questions to Preneet Kaur -- whose husband is senior Congress leader Captain Amarinder Singh, the maharaja of Patiala and former Punjab chief minister -- at the e-mail of her assistant M P Singh who promised this correspondent that he would get Kaur's response. However, M P Singh stopped communicating with Rediff.com after a couple of telephone calls.
Preneet Kaur was asked two questions. One, if it was true that the ministry of finance had inquired with her about the alleged Swiss bank account(s) in her name, and two, what had been her response to that query?
In Rane's case, Rediff.com could reach out to his assistants Sandip Bhonsale and Ninad Chavan.
Chavan informed Rediff.com that all e-mails meant for Rane are sent to him, then a printout is taken for Rane to read. Chavan confirmed on the telephone receiving Rediff.com's e-mail and said a printout of the e-mail had been delivered to Rane.
Narayan Rane has two sons, Nilesh and Nitesh. Nilesh Rane, who was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2009, lost his election in May. His younger brother Nitesh won the October 15 assembly election from the Konkan while his father was defeated by a Shiv Sena candidate in a region where he has long commanded support.
Rediff.com posed two questions to Narayan Rane. One, was it true that the ministry of finance had inquired about alleged Swiss bank account(s) in the names of member/s of the Rane family?
We also wanted to know if he had confirmed or denied holding any such bank account(s) with HSBC or any other bank abroad. Narayan Rane did not respond.
According to a report in The Indian Express, some account holders have shown readiness to pay taxes and penalties on these accounts. Some of these account holders, the newspaper said, had already paid up.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in photograph, confirmed last week the existence of a list of Indians with Swiss bank accounts and claimed that if and when revelations are made in this connection it could embarrass the Congress.
When asked if any UPA minister featured on the list, Jaitley, who lost the Lok Sabha election from Amritsar to Captain Amarinder Singh, said, 'I am neither confirming nor denying, I am only smiling.'
Later, former finance minister P Chidambaram told a television channel, 'If there is a name of a former minister, it will embarrass that person... the party won't be. He (the former minister) is not keeping that account for the party; the party did not authorise him to keep that account. These are individual transgressions.'
Chidambaram said he did not know the names on the list. 'I did not ask to see nor was I shown the names. So whose name is there, I don't know,' he said.
Rediff.com sought clarifications from Kaur and Rane, but both leaders did not speak to this correspondent. Nor did they deny or confirm the e-mail queries.
It is possible that Preneet Kaur and Narayan Rane may later state that they are victims of mistaken identity. But until they clarify the matter, the guessing game around 'two Congress leaders having secret Swiss accounts' will continue.