NEW DELHI/ BERNE: Switzerland's tax authorities on Wednesday issued public notices for Indian businessman Ratul Puri, his father and two offshore firms linked to them after India sought details of their Swiss bank accounts for allegedly having illicit funds.
In separate notices published in the Swiss government's federal gazette, Ratul Puri and his father Deepak Puri have been asked to notify Switzerland's Federal Tax Administration within 10 days about their authorised representatives in case they want to appeal against "administrative assistance" requested by India.
An administrative assistance typically involves sharing of banking and other financial details by Swiss authorities after it prima facie finds the request made by a foreign jurisdiction involving an individual or company suspected to have indulged in tax evasion or other financial irregularities.
In the first step towards providing such an assistance, the Swiss government issues a notice in the name of the concerned individual or company, giving 10 days' time to appoint a representative, followed by further one-month period to appeal against the decision. If the appeal is found to be without merit, the requested information is shared with the foreign jurisdiction.
Similar notices have been issued to Hendon Global Limited and Bronson Financial Inc, two British Virgin Islands (BVI)-based entities that are being probed by Indian authorities for alleged money laundering by the Puris who have been at the centre of a major investigation in connection with the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper scam and also a separate bank fraud case.
Ratul Puri, nephew of former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath and Chairman of Hindustan Powerprojects, has been accused of money laundering and is being probed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Income Tax Department, among other agencies and regulators.
There was no immediate response by Puri and his group regarding the Swiss government notices, though they have been denying association with the scam or any other wrongdoing.
On its website, Hindustan Powerprojects describes itself as an independent power producer with a portfolio of 6,000 MW in projects under various stages, amounting to an asset size of USD 2 billion and employing more than 800 associates across sites.
Puri was arrested in August last year under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in connection with a bank fraud case, while he was still being probed in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam.
However, he was granted bail on December 2, 2019, in the AgustaWestland case, followed by another court order on December 13 by which he was released on bail in the bank fraud case as well. While granting bail in the bank fraud case, the trial court had directed him not to leave the country without its prior permission and to join the probe as and when called for.
The bail was later challenged by the ED in Delhi High Court, which on February 10 this year listed the matter for further hearing on April 27. Besides Ratul Puri, his father Deepak Puri, mother Nita (Nath's sister) and others have also been booked in connection with the Rs 354-crore bank fraud case.
While the notices published in Switzerland's federal gazette did not disclose many details about the two companies linked to Puri, funds linked to Bronson Financial Inc was allegedly used for purchase of a Rs 300-crore bungalow in a posh locality of New Delhi.The property was attached by the Income Tax Department in August last year.
Hendon Global Ltd, another BVI-based entity that has been served the notice, figured among the shell companies named by the ED for being used by Puri for money laundering and for parking of funds related to their alleged financial crimes. In court hearings, Puri's lawyers have been denying these allegations.