Indian deposits in Swiss banks fell by 34.5% in 2017 and by 80% since the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said on Tuesday, citing data from the global body of central banks, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS).
He said this in Parliament rebutting last month’s reports, which quoted the Swiss National Bank, the country’s central bank, as saying in its annual report that Indian deposits had risen by 50% in 2017.
He told Rajya Sabha during question hour that he discussed the issue with Swiss authorities, who told him in a written reply that media reports “have not taken account of the way the (SNB) figures have to be interpreted”.
Last month, PTI had reported SNB data that the money parked by Indians in Swiss banks rose to CHF 1.01 billion (Rs. 7,000 crore) in 2017 after falling for three consecutive years.
“The Swiss Authorities say that the figures published by the Swiss National Bank are regularly mentioned by the Indian media as a reliable indicator of the amount of assets held with Swiss financial institutions in respect of Indian citizens. They clarify how this is wrong. They say more often than not, the media reports have not taken into account the way the figures have to be interpreted which has resulted in misleading headlines and analysis. This is (the Swiss) government response,” he said.
However, his reply did not satisfy Trinamool Congress members who stormed into the Well of the House demanding that black money stashed in Swiss banks be brought back, forcing Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu to adjourn the proceedings for about 90 minutes.
Later, talking to reporters in Parliament House complex, Goyal attacked Congress president Rahul Gandhi for maligning the country’s image by raising the issue of increase in black money deposits of Indians in Swiss banks based on baseless reports.
“I think Rahul Gandhi should reply to the nation why he is maligning the image of the country on the baseless report,” he said. “Of course, he has a habit of saying things without knowing the facts. Even during the no-confidence motion, we have seen claims of Congress being demolished.”
In Rajya Sabha, Goyal said according to Swiss authorities, the more reliable data source for deposits held in Switzerland is the Locational Banking Statistics (LBS) of Bank of International Settlements.
While LBS measures international banking activity from a residence perspective, focusing on the location of banking office and captures around 95% of all cross-border banking activity, SNB data includes non-deposit liabilities, the business of Swiss branches located in India, inter-bank transactions and fiduciary liability.
BIS data show non-bank loans and deposits — which constitute the individual and corporate deposits and exclude interbank transactions — have fallen by 34.5% in 2017 to USD 524 million compared to USD 800 million in 2016, Goyal said and vowed to continue the crackdown against black money.
“Further, there has been a significant reduction in Swiss non-bank loans and deposits of Indians by 80.2% between 2013 and 2017,” he said, adding that the figure in 2013 was USD 2.6 billion which came down to USD 2.3 billion in 2014 and USD 1.4 billion 2015.
“Moreover, it is frequently assumed that any assets held by Indians are undeclared,” he said. “So if you want to know the deposits of Indian residents in Switzerland, the correct data source is called locational banking statistics.”
The minister said the Automatic Exchange of Information based on Common Reporting Standard has commenced from 2017 with many countries enabling India to receive financial account information of Indian residents.
“This will also be useful in bringing the unaccounted income and assets to tax,” he said.
Stating that there was a “misconception” about deposits in Swiss banks, he said: “Swiss Authorities themselves gave this is writing that the Swiss National Bank in collaboration with the Bank for International Settlements data shows that loans and deposits of Indians other than banks like RBI, State Bank, the deposits of individuals in Switzerland decreased by 34.5% in the last year compared to the previous year and reduced 44% in the last quarter.”
He said while the India-Switzerland Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement was amended in 2011 to get information on bank deposits, but no information could be obtained on the HSBC account details till 2014.
“Then in October 2014, PM Modi sent Revenue Secretary and other officials there and after talking tough, a joint declaration was issued that they will cooperate in future on giving us information. After 2014, we have sought over 4,000 information from them and appropriate action is being taken on the basis of that data in the country.
“The new treaty we have negotiated with Switzerland entails that all the transactions by Indian citizens in Switzerland after January 1, 2018, we won’t even have to seek that information, India will get automatic data on which we can take action. We will automatically get information regarding the data of December 2017 by way of opening balance,” he said.