Saturday, July 12, 2008

Swiss bank’ accounts bleeding the country

Swiss bank' accounts bleeding the country
by B.R. Lall

Transparency International India recently exposed how the Indian
Government is not seeking information from the German Government about
billions of dollars of un-accounted money that belongs to the people
of India , lying in Liechtenstein , a small German county.

A number of other countries like the USA , Finland , Norway , Sweden ,
Canada , Italy , the UK and Ireland , whose nationals are also
included in the same list, are seriously collecting information about
their citizens.

As per Transparency International, if asked, the German Government has
offered to provide information on accounts to various nations the
world over including India , free of cost, but India refuses to take
the offer.

I had foreseen this attitude of the government, pointing out clearly
in my book Who Owns CBI: The Naked Truth that, "it will not be easy to
take any step in this direction, as the first obstacle will come from
Indian elites, who are holding such accounts/assets abroad. They will
oppose any such move tooth and nail. But no meaningful fight against
corruption, black money and plethora of economic offences can be
really successful without such radical measures."

I had attempted the analysis in the context of Switzerland alone and
had assessed Indian wealth in that single country at $5 trillion.
There are some other well known 'slush parks' like St Kitts, Antigua ,
Bahamas , and Isle of Man that multiply such holdings manifold. Of
course, Switzerland remains the roof and crown of the slush parks and
if Indian wealth lying there is added and can be brought home, we will
turn into one of the top, rich nations on the globe.

Indian resources get transferred abroad where these are invested to
generate employment and incomes. Other countries develop and prosper
at our cost. No wonder Switzerland has the second highest per capita
income, with this criminal banking industry in the lead.

The holdings abroad cannot be checked as banks cover themselves with
the veil of secrecy. However, the slush money arising out of the drug
trade is being treated differently. If it is suspected that the money
in a bank has some relation with the drug trade, the secrecy laws
stand automatically relaxed, as these have been amended to that

It was done on the insistence of the big western powers, as drugs are
their problem. After the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York
on September 11, 2001, money held by terrorists has also been frozen.
For countries like India, all economic offenders including the
corrupt, as also the cooperating Swiss-bankers, are the 'Financial
Terrorists' or their harbourers.

The major problem of the third world is corruption, and the secrecy
laws aid and abet it. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the
people of countries like Switzerland are more like receivers of stolen
property and are leading a parasitic existence. This hypocrisy does
not go well with their famed high stance on morality.

They should abandon such laws and make their banking business open and
transparent. India should take up this question with Swiss banks, the
western world and with all possible international organisations,
including the UN, OECD etc.

Apart from bank accounts, another dimension is property or other
assets that could be purchased abroad. Since the agency of one country
cannot conduct investigations in another country, some rules need to
be framed so that the particulars of deposits or properties held
abroad could be known to the mother country, in the name of whose
citizens these may stand.

Whenever a bank account is opened by an Indian citizen abroad, or
property is purchased, the particulars should be communicated to the
Indian authorities. All details should be maintained in a National
Property Register.

In criminal cases, on instructions from the CBI, the accounts should
automatically be frozen, the lockers, the properties and other assets
sealed and ultimately these assets be disposed of as per directions of
the Indian courts. For obtaining/supplying such information, the 'dual
criminality' norm may not be insisted upon, as corruption is a crime
everywhere, only some technical details may differ.

Once this happens, hiding black incomes abroad will become very
difficult and practically impossible. The country expects action from
the Prime Minister who is revered as an economist, as an academician
and as an honest person.

It may be argued that the government will fall as most of the elites,
including some of the civil servants, also hold such slush. The moot
point is whether the PM owes his loyalty to such criminals or to the
nation. What if the government of the day falls, the nation will
surely rise.

The writer was an IPS officer

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