NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today claimed a breakthrough saying the Swiss government has agreed to share information on Indians stashing illicit money there in certain cases, but blamed a 1995 agreement as the constraining factor in disclosing their names.
Talking to reporters here on a day his government came under attack for expressing inability in the Supreme Court in disclosing names of black money holders abroad, he said, Switzerland has agreed to share information related to HSBC and Liechetenstein lists, provided there is independent evidence collected by Indian authorities.
Besides, the Swiss government would "confirm the genuineness or otherwise" details of foreign accounts of Indian citizens procured by intelligence agencies, Jaitley said.
"The Government of India is taking all necessary steps to access tax-related information from foreign governments... Black money stashed abroad will be brought back," he said, disclosing details of the discussions held by an official delegation with Swiss government which returned this morning.
After the government toed the UPA government's line in the Supreme Court hearing today, Jaitley blamed the agreement entered into by the Congress government with Germany in 1995 as a constraining factor in disclosing details of black money stashed abroad.
He rejected the charge that the Modi government was reluctant to part with information about the names of persons having black money abroad.
"Is the present NDA government led by Modi in any way reluctant to make some names public? Certainly not. We have no difficulty in making names public. But they can be made public only in accordance with due process of law.
"And the due process of law has been constrained by DTAA (Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement) which was entered into between India and Germany when the Congress Party was in power on June 19, 1995," he said.
Earlier in the day, Congress had slammed the Modi government for refusing to disclose the names of persons having black money accounts to the Supreme Court. Referring to the recent meeting between Indian and Swiss authorities in Berne, he said the crucial question was details of the people whose name have been given with regard to the accounts of the HSBC Bank list.
"We only have a list of names and we wanted details of those accounts. The Swiss so far has been completely refusing to give us any details on the grounds that these were stolen documents.
"A breakthrough was reached that in cases where there is independent investigation in India and evidence is collected in India, those details in relation to those accounts will be provided even if those accounts are on the HSBC list. So, that absolute prohibition which the Swiss had imposed no longer exists," the Finance Minister said.
Jaitley said the Swiss authorities have also agreed to provide the requested information in a time-bound manner or else indicate the reasons why the cases cannot be answered within the agreed timeline.
Also, he said Switzerland has assured that they would commence talks with India for concluding an Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) Agreement between India and Switzerland at the earliest, after completion of their domestic procedures.
On Congress party charges, an official statement said the Government is taking all necessary steps to access tax related information from foreign Governments.
"If the Government is not able to give a commitment to maintain confidentiality of information exchanged under tax treaties...it will not receive information about Indians hiding their money in other countries including offshore financial centers and tax havens through multi-layered entities with non-transparent ownership," it said.
The Finance Minister also said that government will make public the names of people who have illicit wealth in offshore accounts once formal charges are framed.
"We have no difficulty in making the names public," Jaitley said, adding that it was constrained in making the disclosures due to a double taxation pact signed by the then Congress government with Germany in 1995.