New Delhi: Committing its support to India's fight against the black money menace, Switzerland today said its Parliament will soon consider changes in laws to look into the possibility of sharing information in cases being probed on the basis of stolen data of Swiss bank accounts.
To consider providing 'administrative assistance' to foreign countries, which would include India, in such cases, a proposal would be moved in the Swiss Parliament in the second half of this year, Switzerland's Economic Affairs Minister Johann N Schneider Ammann said here today.
Ammann, who is in India on a three-day visit, said Switzerland is sensitive to the fact that the issue of black money is very important for India and needs to be resolved.
"Switzerland has decided to follow international standards, including those framed by OECD, in sharing information and providing assistance to foreign countries probing such cases, but we have to ask our Parliament to make changes in our laws," he said at a select media briefing.
Ammann said the Swiss government is committed to resolve this issue and the Federal Council, the apex decision making body in Switzerland (equivalent to Cabinet in India), has decided to provide a 'clarification' to the Parliament on legal situation on administrative assistance in cases of stolen data.
When asked whether the new black money law passed in India would have ramifications for Swiss banks, the Minister said it was too early to talk about that as the procedures and the law itself first needs to be understood.
Under the new law, those found to be stashing illicit funds in foreign locations, including Swiss banks, would face strict penal action, including up to ten years in jail and a penalty of 90 per cent of funds in addition to 30 per cent tax levy.
However, a one-time 'compliance window' will be provided before the law comes into force and this would let the persons with foreign assets to come clean by payment of 30 per cent tax and 30 per cent penalty.
The Swiss Minister, who had meetings with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Skills Development Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy, said he also discussed bilateral trade ties, Free Trade Agreement and other issues of mutual interest in his meetings.
Ammann, who is accompanied by a large business delegation and would visit Bengaluru tomorrow, said the Swiss government is enthused by the pro-growth economic policies of the new government in India and there is a great scope for expanding the business ties between the two countries.
In his meeting with Sitharaman, Ammann had negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement between India and EFTA (European Free Trade Association), of which Switzerland is a member. “I am sure the negotiations team will continue its discussions and reach some conclusion on sensitive issues like data protection and IPR,” he said.
Asked whether the process to amend the law relating to information exchange on cases involving stolen data would be time-consuming and provide the suspected black money hoarders enough time to move their funds, Ammann said, “Switzerland is committed to follow international standards, but India should take note of the fact that we have a Parliamentary process and the Swiss government can only give its proposal.” “I agree that time is a factor, but we have to follow the procedures... Now there is a will to clarify.
We can't say as yet that it would be done or it would be done within such time period. The stolen data issue has to be discussed in Parliament,” he said.
When asked whether Switzerland would want its double taxation treaty with India to be amended also, Ammann said he was not aware of the technicalities involved there as it was the domain of the Finance Minister of Switzerland and he was therefore not the right person to comment on that.
The Minister said that the Swiss government's move on stolen data was not specific to India alone, but was meant to provide cooperation to all countries with which Switzerland had a bilateral treaty in this regard.
He, however, agreed that India could benefit considerably. India has been probing hundreds of black money cases, including those related to Indians' accounts in a Swiss branch of global banking giant HSBC, but the sharing of information has been difficult as Switzerland has termed this list to be part of a stolen data.