Berne: As India steps up its crackdown on suspected black money stashed abroad, Switzerland has issued public notices to former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi and his wife Minal following requests made by Indian authorities about Swiss bank details of the couple.
In its latest federal gazette notification on assistance sought by foreign jurisdictions under bilateral treaties for exchange of information on matters concerning suspected financial irregularities, Switzerland's Federal Tax Administration (FTA) has named Lalit and Minal Modi (alias Minalini Modi) among such individuals.
The former IPL commissioner, who is said to have left India for London in 2010, is already facing a money laundering probe also, though he has been denying any wrongdoing. The two separate notifications dated October 1 did not disclose any further details, besides giving Lalit and Minal Modi ten days' time to designate authorised persons to respond to the assistance request received by the FTA from India.
Interestingly, similar notices were issued against the two in 2016, but it could not be ascertained whether the details were eventually shared by the Swiss authorities with India in that case. That time also, the two were given time for "exercise of the right to be heard".
In recent months, several other Indian nationals have been named in such notifications after the Swiss FTA was approached by Indian authorities for information about those people with regard to the pending tax-related probes against them.
After a due process prescribed under the Swiss law, the information has been shared by Switzerland with India in several cases, pursuant to which the Indian authorities — including the tax department and Enforcement Directorate — have proceeded with their prosecution and other actions. These included several Indians named in the leaked 'HSBC List' of people with accounts in the Geneva branch of the global banking giant.
For long, Switzerland used to be known for strict secrecy clauses about details of foreigners having accounts in Swiss banks. Under growing global pressure, Switzerland has, however, begun sharing information in cases where other countries have been able to present some evidence of suspected illegalities. Under the Swiss law, a prescribed procedure is followed for any administration assistance or information exchange by the FTA with India or any other country with which the Alpine nation has tax treaties about their respective nationals.
Besides, an automatic information exchange mechanism has also come into force between India and Switzerland under which the Indian tax authorities now have access to all details about Swiss bank accounts of Indians, including those closed during 2018. The Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) is being seen as a major boost in India's fight against suspected black money stashed abroad.