The Swiss government has started preparing a list of Indians with suspected black money. This shows that the Indian government is really serious about seeking information on black money
In a major boost to India’s fight against black money, Switzerland has prepared a list of Indians suspected to have stashed untaxed wealth in Swiss banks and the details are being shared with the Indian government.
According to an official from the Swiss government, the authorities were very keen to work with the new government in India and they would also provide all necessary support to the newly set up Special Investigation Team (SIT) on black money. In May this year, the first Cabinet meeting of the Narendra Modi government resolved to form the SIT to unearth black money stashed abroad. The SIT is headed by former Supreme Court judge MB Shah and includes the Revenue Secretary, CBI and IB directors, an Enforcement Directorate official, CBDT Chairman and RBI deputy governor as members. Former Supreme Court judge Arijit Pasayat will be the vice-chairman of the panel.
While declining to be named, as he is not authorised to speak to media, the senior official from Switzerland further said the details are being shared with India on a ‘spontaneous’ basis and are different from the information sought earlier by the Indian authorities on the basis of ‘leaked’ or ‘stolen’ lists of certain banks, including the so-called ‘HSBC list’. But more about this later.
The names of these Indian individuals and entities have come under the scanner of the Swiss authorities during an ongoing exercise to identify real beneficiary owners of funds held in various banks operating in Switzerland.
“These individuals and entities are suspected to have held untaxed money in Swiss banks through structures like trusts, domiciliary companies and other legal entities based out of countries other than India,” the official said.
He refused to divulge the identity of these persons and entities, as also the quantum of funds held by them in Swiss banks, citing confidentiality clauses of the bilateral information exchange treaty between two countries.
He however dismissed claims that black money stashed in Swiss banks by Indians could be trillions of dollars, as the latest Swiss National Bank data pegs the total foreign client money across 283 banks in Switzerland at $1.6 trillion.
Asked about rise in Indian exposure to Swiss banks at 2.03 billion Swiss francs (Rs14,000 crore), he said these are the funds held by clients who have declared themselves as Indian and therefore were unlikely to be ill-gotten wealth.
It must be noted that under pressure from the OECD and the G20, the Swiss government in March 2009 decided to abolish the distinction between tax evasion and tax fraud in dealings with foreign clients. In 2013, the Swiss Parliament approved a law that allows Swiss banks to cooperate with tax authorities from the US as specified in the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).
In October 2013, the Swiss government stated that it intended to sign an international agreement sponsored by the OECD, which if ratified by Parliament, will align Swiss banking practices with those of other countries, and in effect end the special secrecy that clients of Swiss banks had enjoyed in the past.
Earlier, Swiss banking secrecy was dealt a severe setback by the revelations made by ex-UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld, who blew the whistle on UBS providing Americans with vehicles to hide up to $20 billion in assets to avoid taxes. In November 2008, a US federal grand jury indicted Birkenfeld's former boss, Raoul Weil, as the result of the investigation of UBS' US cross-border business. As a result of the information Birkenfeld gave US authorities, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said it had reached a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with UBS that resulted in a $780 million fine and the release of previously privileged information on American tax evaders.
On 11 September 2012, Birkenfeld was awarded $104 million for acting as a corporate whistleblower by the US IRS Whistleblower Office. At that time, Swiss newspaper Blick wrote, “Birkenfeld was a blessing for the Swiss financial industry, in that his revelations helped accelerate the industry's transition away from its reliance on 'dirty' money by dooming the bank secrecy laws that enabled tax evasion."
This shows that if the particular government is serious, then the Swiss authorities are prepared for cooperation and sharing list of bank account holders, who may have stashed unaccounted money in that country.
In 2012, the Income-Tax (I-T) department in India, probing the secret list of account holders in the Geneva branch of HSBC Bank, had approached Swiss revenue authorities for banking data of certain individuals after investigations showed some of them reportedly had other accounts under fictitious names. India had obtained data of over 700 HSBC accounts from French government channels during that year.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had said, based on observations reported in its Annual Financial Inspection of HSBC for 2012, it would take further action against the lender, which is under the scanner for alleged violations of money-laundering and KYC norms. But there has not been much action on this front.
The findings, published in Nature Physics, confirm that the Higgs bosons decay to fermions — a group of particles that includes all leptons and quarks — as predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics
In a breakthrough, researchers at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) have found the first evidence for the direct decay of the Higgs boson into fermions — a strong indication that the particle discovered in 2012 is the Higgs boson.
The findings confirm that the bosons decay to fermions — a group of particles that includes all leptons and quarks — as predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics.
“This is an enormous breakthrough,” said Markus Klute, an assistant professor of physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
“Now we know that particles like electrons get their mass by coupling to the Higgs field, which is really exciting,” he added.
In July 2012, researchers from the ATLAS and Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiments at the CERN, said they had observed a new particle in the mass region of 125 to 126 gigaelectronvolts (GeV).
Preliminary studies showed the new particle’s properties were consistent with those predicted for the Higgs boson by the Standard Model, but much more work was needed to confirm.
Researchers wanted to clarify whether there was a single Higgs or many different Higgs particles, as predicted by various extensions of the Standard Model, Klute said.
“What we are trying to do is establish whether this particle is really consistent with the Higgs boson, the particle we predict in our Standard Model, and not one of many Higgs bosons, or an imposter that looks like it but has a different origin,” he said.
Previous analysis of the data produced by experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, in Switzerland, has shown that like the Higgs boson of the Standard Model, the new particles have no spin, and rapidly decay by splitting into pairs of photons, W bosons, or Z bosons. But it remained uncertain whether they could also decay to fermion pairs, Klute said.
Now the team from the CMS Collaboration has demonstrated that the bosons also decay to fermions in a way that is consistent with the Standard Model Higgs.
“We have now established the main characteristics of this new particle, in its coupling to fermions and to bosons, and its spin-parity structure; all of these things are consistent with the Standard Model,” Klute said.
To determine whether the particles could decay to fermions, the researchers fired protons at each other in a 6-metre-diameter solenoid and used specialised detectors to determine which particles were produced in the resulting collisions.
The researchers were hunting for particles called tau leptons, which have a mass of around 1.7 GeV, making them around 3,500 times heavier than their little sibling, the electron.
They were able to confirm the presence of decay to tau leptons with a confidence level of 3.8 standard deviations — a one in 10,000 chance that the signal they saw would have appeared if there were no Higgs particles.
The study was published in the journal Nature Physics.
FCI acts independently, is answerable to no one in particular and has become a mammoth organisation that now needs to be restructured and reorganised to meet the changing needs of the country
According to press reports, in response to an application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) last year, it has been revealed that Food Corporation of India (FCI) has "admitted" that 1.94 lakh tonnes of food grains were wasted, due to various reasons, between 2005 and 2013.
The truth of the matter is that this figure of 1.94 lakh tonnes may be the tip of the iceberg. Only a more detailed investigation by a competent agency can reveal, if at all possible, how much more has been lost due to pilferage, how much ended up as feed for rodents, and how much was damaged due to natural causes of decay. Oh yes, we may never how know much more was "stolen" or "misappropriated" during this period, when these were in "transit".
In a recent meeting that James Bevan, the British High Commissioner had with Harsimrat Kaur Badal, he informed her that a delegation would visit India to extend cooperation and to offer assistance in curbing food wastage in India. Earlier, a US based organisation had estimated that India wastes fruits and vegetables worth around Rs13,000 crore every year, due to poor storage facilities.
A percentage of these perish due to poor transportation, becoming unfit for human consumption and are thrown away, only to be eaten by stray cattle on the road side! Besides, periodic strikes by transporters first "create" an artificial shortage in the market resulting in price rise, during which time an unestimated amount of fruits and vegetables would again be lost due to natural process of damage, and when the situation returns to "normalcy" some more would have perished! All this must stop and Minister Harsimrat Badal plans to revolutionize food processing at the farm level.
In the new NDA government, we have at least four ministries involved in food and related matters, such as:
Ramvilas Paswan - Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
Harsimrat Kaur Badal - Food Processing Industries
Radha Mohan Singh - Agriculture
Sanjeev Kumar Balyan (MoS) - Agriculture, Food Processing Industries
Besides these, Finance Ministry would also be involved as they are the ones who finance the entire FCI operation!
It may be remembered that the FCI was established exactly 50 years ago, in 1964. The entire operation of FCI is financed by the Government and yet FCI acts independently, answerable to no one in particular and has become a mammoth organisation that now needs to be restructured and reorganised to meet the changing needs of the country.
In the past, various proposals have been made for reorganising FCI operations. Their activities come into public view when shortages occur in the market or when weather conditions cause untold damage to food grains stocked in the open, poorly covered with plastic sheets and tarpaulin etc. After a few explanations and "assurances" of the matter receiving due "attention", promises are made that everything will be taken "care of in the future." The matter slowly dies down from public view and public memory is short, being swamped by newer and newer scams that appear on the TV screen.
What has been going on like this for some 50 years cannot be "fixed" overnight. A strong, independent committee of experts, with a specific term of reference, as rightly outlined by the Prime Minister in his speech in Parliament is the need of the hour. It should work with a time frame, must come up with a possible and workable alternative. They may bear in mind the following needs:
- Existing storage and warehousing would most likely need upgrade, modernisation and/or expansion
-Rice should be stored and not "paddy"
-Surplus rice areas should have milling units nearby (much like onsite milling) so that paddy is converted to rice for easy handling; labour and transportation cost of paddy is more than milled rice.
-Fleet of trucks/lorries will have to be owned and operated by the concerned warehouse; FCI cannot and should not "hire" these vehicles
-All states must be encouraged to offer land for interested corporate houses to build warehousing facilities
-A standardized warehousing design/format to be prepared with varying capacities so that these can be used on a national scale
-Officials who run these facilities must be accountable; existing staff must account for the lapses that have occured and action taken against them where dereliction is proved.
-Both MSP and PDS procedures to be cleared and outlined atleast 3 months before the harvesting starts
-All payments to be directly made into the banking accounts of concerned people - not through intermediaries, who should be eliminated completely
-Maintenance, handling, security and regular quality inspection must be done on an in-house basis
-Surprise inspections by independent and approved surveyors to be made periodically so as to ensure quality and quantity of food grains stored, and are certified fit for human consumption
-The reorganised FCI could expand to take oversea marketing as well instead of using STC (State Trading Corporation), MMTC (Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation) and PEC (Project and Equipment Corporation) for exports
In order to do all these operations, it is naive to assume that a single corporation can handle such a giant enterprise. It may be prudent and desirable that the various operations could be treated as independent companies, by having a holding company. The government can own a 26% share in such operations and let the balance come from the investing public so that the entire operation
become a public enterprise.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)