New Delhi/Berne: India figures among the top-three countries getting detailed information from Switzerland about bank accounts and beneficiary ownership of entities established by their residents in the Alpine nation, according to the latest study by OECD’s Global Forum on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes.
In its latest peer review report on exchange of information on request, the Global Forum, which is tasked to assess the standard of exchange of information on request by various jurisdictions worldwide and their compliance, said Switzerland is rated ‘largely compliant’.
India is also rated as ‘largely compliant’ by this OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) body.
The Global Forum review said Switzerland has made “significant improvements in the areas of availability of legal ownership information, exchange of information on deceased persons and requests based on stolen data”.
It, however, said some challenges remain with regard to availability of beneficial ownership information and proper implementation of rights and safeguards to ensure effective exchange of information and confidentiality requirements.
While the issue of alleged black money parked by Indians in Swiss banks has been a political hot potato in India for many years, Switzerland has been trying hard for a long time now to ward off a widely-prevailing perception about its financial institutions being used to hide undeclared wealth by people from various countries.
Secrecy walls crumbling
Under mounting global pressure, the famed secrecy walls surrounding Swiss banks have already crumbled over the last few years and Switzerland has been making an all-out effort to present itself as a clean global financial centre while dispelling the long-held perception of its banks being secret wealth vaults.
With regard to India itself, Switzerland has shared detailed information in more than 500 cases over the past one year regarding the accounts in Swiss financial institutions of Indian individuals and enterprises suspected to have indulged in tax frauds and other financial irregularities, while the numbers increase multi-fold after taking into account such cases from across the world, officials said.
In addition to such exchange of information on request and on submission of prima facie evidence about financial wrongdoings, Switzerland has entered into pacts with more than 100 countries, including India, for automatic exchange of information on tax matters.
The latest peer review by the Global Forum, referring to the period from July 2015 to June 2018, named India among the top-three jurisdictions to which Switzerland provided information on request. The other two countries were France and Germany.
The review also named Italy, Netherlands and Spain among other significant EOI (Exchange of Information) partners for Switzerland.
Without disclosing the numbers for individual countries, the Global Forum review report said Switzerland received 3,252 individual requests for information. These requests related to legal ownership information (128 cases), beneficial ownership information (100 cases), accounting information (318 cases), and banking information (1,748 cases).
In addition, Switzerland received eight group requests and 16 bulk requests with a total of 99,893 cases. Overall, Switzerland received around 100,000 requests from various foreign tax authorities between 2015 and 2018.