As reported by Vishwa Mohan of TNN in Times of India, Hyderabad Edition, on 21 May 2008: Welcome
India silent on tax cheats
Germany Ready To Reveal List Of Indians With Funds In Tax Haven
Vishwa Mohan | TNN
New Delhi: Investigators in India might have their best chance yet to trace those Indians who have stashed away millions in the tiny tax haven of Liechtenstein, a small landlocked country between Austria and Switzerland, provided the Manmohan Singh government asks for the information on offer.
The dope on hundreds of rich Indians who have black money parked in Liechtenstein could be made available to the authorities here as the German government, which has obtained a list of account holders at Liechtenstein’s LTG Bank, is willing to part with the names. The German federal government has been willing to do this free of charge since February.
Several countries including the US, the UK, Canada, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Ireland have already used the opportunity to zero in on their citizens who have evaded taxes and smuggled their wealth to the principality, the sixth-smallest country in the world. But Transparency International says India has maintained “a stoic silence over the issue and has not approached the German government for this data’’. Expressing concern over the India’s lackadaisical attitude in getting after offenders who have cheated the tax authorities of millions of dollars is quite surprising and the Indian chapter of TI— an international organization campaigning to reduce corruption— has urged the government to take all necessary steps to seek the data.
Admiral R H Tahiliani, chairman of TI India and a former navy chief, said: “This money belongs to the people of India and it is possible that it has been tucked away in this distant country by those who have acquired it illegally.’’
Indeed, the offer looks too good to refuse. It is a bit like being served secrets on a platter and if the government does not waste time looking a gift horse in the mouth, it could get data that might otherwise never be accessed given the laws that protect tax havens that often require specific proof of criminality. In fact, the dice is invariably loaded against investigators— for example the Hindujas were able to delay proceedings in the Bofors case by challenging each application filed by CBI. Suspecting that the government’s chariness could stem from fears that politicians and industrialists might be compromised by the data, TI has, in a statement, said: “It is alleged that this money belongs to rich and powerful politicians, industrialists and stock brokers and that is why the reluctance on the part of Government of India (to get details from Germany).’’
Liechtenstein: Paradise for tax evaders
In February, the head of Deutsche Post, Klaus Zumwinkel, was forced to resign after being accused of stashing funds away in Liechtenstein. On February 25, Germany said the details of the 800 non-German account-holders would be given to their respective countries free of cost.
PMO blinks at Indians’ slush money abroad
New Delhi: The list of rich Indians who have black money parked in Liechtenstein, a tax haven, could be made available to the Indian authorities as the German government, which has obtained a list of account holders at Liechtenstein’s LTG Bank, is willing to part with the names. German federal government has been willing to do this free of charge since February.
Liechtenstein, like many other countries including Switzerland, St Kitts, Canary Islands, Antigua and Bahamas, has been a haven for wealthy people to hide their ill-gotten wealth away from the prying eyes of tax authorities.
Referring to certain reports, the Transparency International (TI) mentioned that German intelligence agency —BND — has details of about 800 clients of LTG Bank — run by Liechtenstein’s ruling dynasty. “The Indian ministry of finance and PMO have, however, not shown much interest in finding out about those who have their lockers in the secret banks of Liechtenstein which prides itself in its banking system,’’ TI said.
Government must not think twice before accepting the offer from Germany to reveal the names of those who have illegally stashed away money in Liechtenstein. Many, if not most, of the account holders are likely to be corrupt politicians and others hiding wealth obtained by dubious means, as Transparency International has rightly pointed out. If the government is serious about cleansing public life in India, the least it can do is accept such fortuitous offers with alacrity. The citizens have a right to know who is secreting away public money into personal accounts and the government has a duty to get that information if it can.
NEW DELHI: The BJP has asked the Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre to immediately put in a request to Germany to know the names of all the culprits, irrespective of their class and creed, who have stashed away illegal money in Liechtenstein.
On May 10, this website's newspaper broke the story about Germany obtaining a list of account-holders at a bank in Leichtenstein, a tax haven, and offering it to any country "that asked". Although most countries had requested for the data, India had not responded, the report said.
BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad wondered why the UPA Government was reluctant in knowing the names of the persons who had stashed away money in the bank, and that too in this age of Right to Information. He asked the UPA Government to write to the German authorities and take all the necessary steps to bring the culprits to book.
He said if the Government was keen on fighting corruption, the names of the persons who have parked illegal wealth in Liechtenstein should be brought to light. Prakash Javadekar, another BJP spokesperson said, "The Government should promptly act as black money is not only tax-evasion, but a loot of the national economy."
Terming it a "heist on the nation", Javadekar said the money should be tapped. "Whom is the Government trying to protect," he asked.
This website's newspaper had said in its front-page report (see screenshot at right) that Finland, Norway and Sweden had promptly asked for details after Germany made the offer. The US, Australia, France, the UK, Ireland, Italy, Canada, New Zealand and Spain had subsequently put in their requests.
Nations mentioned at last para of post 2 belong to top 20 of transparency list,and those three Scandinavian countries ,besides Denmark ,belong to top first five,whereas India in keeping with its character belongs to bottom list .Dont expect miracles,and even this Govt. under pressure applies for the names and manage to get the names from German Govt. under some barter deal -so what- who will act on that information?
Besides Swiss Banks and a few other tax havens ,Liechtenstein has been known for keeping unaccounted money of dictators,politicians,bureaucrats,industrialists and so on for decades now. Infact ,that nation's economy is based on this ill gotton wealth only.
NEW DELHI: India has approached the German authorities for information regarding secret bank accounts in the tax haven of Liechtenstein. Transparency International's India chapter had issued a statement calling on the government to accept the offer as countries like the US and UK had done.
Shishir Jha, spokesman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes refuted TI's allegation that the Indian government has not reacted to the German offer.
In response to the developments, Magsaysay award winner Arvind Kejriwal and rights activists Shekhar Singh and Manish Sisodia have asked for disclosure of details under the Right to Information Act. The appeal, made to the PMO, also wanted the list of account holders to be made public.
Sources in the finance ministry said the matter was brought to the notice of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by former deputy PM L K Advani in April. Subsequently, India sent a reminder to the German tax authorities early this month. Later, finance minister P Chidambaram wrote to Advani on May 16, informing him about the action taken.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the PM, Kejriwal pointed out that Liechtenstein was a tax haven and the list was likely to expose names of those who evaded taxes and parked their money illegally.
''Honest tax-payers would feel cheated if the government does not obtain this list and enquire into it. The people have a right to know the names of these people who defrauded the public exchequer,'' Kejriwal said.
The letter said: ''The list could contain the names of bureaucrats, politicians and other individuals who earned their money through corrupt means. You would agree that this was public money, which is stashed abroad. This money was paid to the government as taxes by the people of India in trust that the money would be used for their welfare. However, some individuals have betrayed this trust and siphoned it for their personal benefit. The people have a right to know the names of those individuals who betrayed public interest.''
In their RTI applications, the applicants sought to know whether the government have decided not to accept the list of account holders. It also asked the PMO for correspondence between the Indian and German governments and a list of ministries and departments dealing with the subject. They have also asked for a list of files, and their contents, dealing with the issue.
Quoting Section 2(f) of the RTI Act, Kejriwal said that information relating to a private body which could be accessed by a public authority under any law, could be accessed by the Centre and made public.
Liechtenstein bank data expose Indian tax evaders
as reported by John Samuel Raja D / New Delhi August 18, 2008
The Indian government has received sensitive information from its German counterpart regarding tax evaders, who have channelled money in a tax haven bank in Liechtenstein, a small European country known for hosting such banks, and it is unwilling to make these details public.
It is not known at this point of time whether the information exchanged between the two countries contain details of account holders from India.
It all started in February this year, when a former employee of LGT Bank in Liechtenstein sold data on about 1,400 people to tax authorities across the world. This was followed by investigations by Germany, the US, the UK, Australia, Italy and others. After receiving the stolen data, the German government initiated action against around 600 taxpayers for possible tax evasion. It has reportedly offered to provide data to any country that seeks information.
Subsequently, India’s finance ministry wrote its first letter to German authorities in February 2008 seeking information on Indian account holders and followed it up with another letter in June 2008, the government disclosed in a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by the Indian-chapter of Transparency International.
When Transparency International asked for copies of correspondence between the two governments and the list of account holders in LGT Bank, the finance ministry replied saying that the exchange of information between India and Germany is covered under Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA), which prohibits countries from sharing information.
“It’s not acceptable that the government is not disclosing the correspondence with the German government,” said Anupama Jha, executive director of Transparency International India.
In an e-mail response to a questionnaire sent to them, LGT Group said Indian authorities have not contacted them so far. “Due to client confidentiality laws, we are unable to disclose any client names. Also, with regard to stolen client data, we do not provide any nationality break-downs”, LGT spokesperson Christof Buri said. The German government did not respond to the questionnaire.
If the German government had given details of Indian account holders in LGT Bank, which is owned by the princely house of Liechtenstein, it will help domestic tax authorities to investigate tax evasion for money deposited in tax haven destinations. Tax haven locations thrive mainly because of difference in tax rates, often levying nil or very low taxation. Banks that operate in these locations are alleged to create complex offshore structures that will enable their clients to hide the assets from tax authorities.
This sort of tax evasion, according to a report prepared by the US senate sub-committee last month, had estimated that it cost US taxpayers $100 billion every year. LGT Group was one of the two entities named in the report.
But LGT denied the charges, saying, “Liechtenstein has very strict money laundering and KYC (Know Your Customer) regulations in place, and clients of LGT Group (as of any other Liechtenstein bank) are obliged to disclose the beneficial owner and have to give detailed information regarding the source of their assets”. But it said LGT is neither responsible for nor in control of the tax compliance of its customers.
LGT Group is a wealth and asset management group with or $91.5 billion of assets under its management.
At least can the Indian Govt. ask for freezing of these accounts so that these funds are not diverted elsewhere , till our super sloth administrative and judicial system takes some action?
Can we tell our next generation that not to worry, if at any times we as a nation become bankrupt( there is enough possibility the way the funds are siphoned out), there is enough money outside to take care?
Now can we say where the money right from INA(Indian National Army) treasure loot to the recent share market slumps are being stashed away?
Why Indian poor are not recovering from their poverty and rich is becoming richer?
The news that the Indian Government has received information from the German government is a few months old. I had read in the news that PM Dr. Manmohan Singh had promised to look into this matter and bring the guilty to justice.
But nothing seems to have happened next (as is usually the case). Is there any RTI application seeking more information in this direction? Any revelations & actions thereof could set a precedent, and give a jolt to our money laundering politicians.