Back to India's $1,456 billion of black money deposited in Swiss Bank

Black money in Swiss banks

A Surya Prakash

Neither Manmohan Singh nor the Government he heads is interested in bringing back to India the money that has been looted from this country.

In November 2010, President Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast in western Africa made a bid to legitimise his dictatorship through an election. The voters, however, rejected him and chose his rival, Mr Alassane Ouattara, instead. Mr Gbagbo refused to honour the people’s verdict and hand over power to the winner despite pressure from the international community. In recent weeks, two other autocrats in the Arab world — President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt — have been forced to step down following mass uprising in their countries.

Apart from the growing anger against dictators in that part of the world, there is another thing that is common to all the three leaders — the freezing of their bank accounts and those of their associates by the Government of Switzerland. Following petitions from Ivory Coast and Tunisia, the Swiss Cabinet met last month and decided to freeze the assets of Mr Gbagbo and Mr Ben Ali. A similar decision was taken in respect of Mr Mubarak’s assets in Switzerland on the very day he stepped down from office.

Announcing these decisions, the President of Switzerland, Ms Micheline Calmy-Rey, declared that these bank accounts would be frozen initially for three years to enable the authorities in these three countries to initiate criminal proceedings against the leaders rejected by the people. The initiation of such criminal proceedings is a pre-condition for judicial assistance from Switzerland and for the return of the funds to the countries from which they were embezzled.

Switzerland is desperately trying to shed the image of a country that attracts dirty money from across the world and shields those who deposit such funds in its banks. The Swiss Government has, therefore, passed a new law which enables the Cabinet to block assets of dictators. Using the developments in the Arab World as an opportunity for an image make-over, Ms Calmy-Rey has said that Switzerland does not want its financial system to be used to park embezzled funds from poor countries.

Accordingly, Swiss banks have been directed to monitor these accounts and ensure that the account-holders do not withdraw funds from them. The European Union and the United States have also frozen the assets of Mr Gbagbo and Britain’s Serious Fraud Office is investigating if Mr Mubarak has stashed any funds in the UK.

Surely this is an opportune moment for us to go after Indian fraudsters who have parked funds in Swiss banks. However, the swift action taken by Switzerland, the European Union, Britain and the US only confirms our worst fears about the attitude of the UPA regime vis-à-vis black money and bank accounts of Indians in Switzerland and other tax havens. Virtually acting suo motu, the Swiss authorities have frozen the accounts of three fallen autocrats but our Government would like us to believe that the Swiss Government was uncooperative when we sought its help to freeze $ 8 billion stashed away by a Pune-based stud farm owner called Hasan Ali.

In other words, just acting on a tip-off, the bank accounts of three rulers are frozen by the Swiss Government, but the same Government is unmoved by the entreaties of the Government that represents the second largest country and one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Such is the pusillanimity of the Government headed by Mr Manmohan Singh that even a principality like Liechtenstein, which is smaller than Gurgaon, has been cocking a snook at us and refusing to cooperate. Clearly there is something wrong somewhere. Why is Mr Singh unwilling to act against those who have looted the country?

The Task Force appointed by the BJP to examine this issue says that global financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund estimate the quantum of black money lodged in tax havens at $ 18 trillion. Of this, around $ 500 billion (`25 lakh crore) belongs to India....

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