The government Friday gave the Supreme Court the status report on the action taken by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on money stashed away by Indian nationals in Swiss and German banks in Liechtenstein in Europe and said the amount is no way near the whopping sum of $1.5 trillion.
There are twelve trusts, owned by 26 tax assesses, including non-resident Indians (NRIs), that hold accounts in these banks, Additional Solicitor General Parag Tripathi told the apex court bench of Justice B. Sudarshan Reddy and Justice S.S. Nijjar.
He submitted the status report in a sealed cover in the wake of a petition by senior counsel Ram Jethmalani seeking the court’s directions to the government to bring back ill gotten $1.5 trillion put away in foreign banks by Indians.
Parag Tripathi told the court that the investigation by the CBDT into the information provided by the German tax authorities nowhere takes them to the astronomical figures of $1.5 trillion.
“No smoking guns are there,” Tripathi told the court.
Jethmalani moved the apex court seeking directions to the government to act on the report that the German government was willing to share the details of Indians who had accounts in the banks based in Liechtenstein.
The German government had said that it accessed the details of the account holders through its sources.
There are 15 banks in Liechtenstein, of which seven are Swiss owned. The principality has a total population of 67,000 people.
The additional solicitor general said of a set of 21 documents, five awee of general nature and they have been given to petitioner Jethmalani. The remaining 16 were handed over to the court in a sealed cover.
The court was told that the 16 documents given to the court in a sealed cover could not be shared with the petitioner as India was obligated under the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with Germany not to make these public.
Senior counsel Anil Diwan appearing for Jethmalani wondered how DTAA could come in the way of transactions, which concerned only India. He said that DTAA comes into play only when the transaction was between a German and an Indian entity.
However, the court said it would look into the pleas of the petitioner’s counsel Anil Diwan only after studying the documents given to the court in a sealed cover.
Some of the correspondence relates to global financial services company UBS AG with the Reserve Bank of India over the acquisition by the former of a mutual fund arm of a banking institution.
When Anil Diwan wanted to have a copy of the Enforcement Directorate’s notice to Hassan Ali, Tripathi said that since it concerned an individual, it could not be given to the third party.
Further hearing is slated for Jan 14, 2011.