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Swiss money: India moves up to 58th rank; UK remains on top

Swiss money: India moves up to 58th rank; UK remains on top

Zurich: India has moved up to 58th rank in terms of foreign money lying with Swiss banks, but it accounts for a meagre 0.15 percent of an estimated USD 1.6 trillion total global wealth held in Switzerland's banking system.

The UK has retained its top position with highest share of close to 20 percent of global wealth in Swiss banking system, followed by the US, West Indies, Germany and Guernsey in the top-five in terms of exposure to banks in Switzerland.

Amid much hue and cry over huge amounts of illicit wealth stashed by Indians in Swiss banks, the latest official data released by Switzerland's central banking authority SNB shows that Indian money in Swiss banks rose by 43 percent during 2013 to close to Rs 14,000 crore (2.03 billion Swiss francs), pushing its global ranking up from 70th at the end of 2012.

The rankings are based on the direct client exposure as also the funds held through 'fiduciaries' or wealth managers with a total of 283 banks in Switzerland.

India now ranks higher than Pakistan, whose position has slipped from 69th earlier to 74th now, as its total exposure to Swiss banks declined from 1.44 billion Swiss francs at the end of 2012 to 1.23 billion Swiss francs in 2013.

However, China continues to rank higher than India, although it has slipped by four places to 30th. Among other major emerging economies, Brazil, Russia and South Africa are also ranked higher than India, whose 58th position continues to remain the lowest among major economies across the world.
The countries ranked below India include Philippines, Kazakhstan, Bahrain, Iran, Pakistan, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Palestine, Barbados, Macau SAR, Iraq, Brunei and Zimbabwe.

Among top-ranked, UK has the highest exposure of 277 billion Swiss francs, followed by the US (193 billion Swiss francs), West Indies (100 billion Swiss francs), Germany (52.4 billion Swiss francs) and Guernsey (49.6 billion Swiss francs).

In top-20, they are followed by Luxembourg, Jersey, Bahamas, France, Panama, Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, Singapore, Italy, Japan, Russia, UAE, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and Australia.

However, only a few countries account for the bulk of global money in Swiss banks and there are only 18 countries whose exposure stands at one percent or more. Even among these, only the UK and the US have exposure of more than 10 percent, at about 20 percent and 14 percent respectively.

The UK, the US and West Indies have retained their top-3 positions. Germany and Luxembourg have moved up two and three ranks respectively, while Jersey and France have come down.

Other countries ranked above India include Spain, Belgium, Israel, Bermuda, Cyprus, Argentina, Canada, Greece, Mexico, Indonesia, Gibraltar, Seychelles, Egypt, Thailand, Isle of Man, Nigeria, South Korea, New Zealand and Ukraine.

Those ranked below India and having relatively much smaller exposure of less than 100 million Swiss francs include Madagascar, Congo, Nepal, Macedonia, Sri Lanka, Burkina Faso, Vatican, Mongolia, Mozambique, Burundi, Papua New Guinea, Malawi, Maldives, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Turkmenistan, Somalia, Bhutan, Solomon Islands and Timor.

Swiss government has been refusing to share details about the Indians named in this 'HSBC list', which was stolen by a bank employee and later found its way to tax authorities in various countries including India.

Despite repeated requests from India, Switzerland has said its local laws prohibit administrative assistance in matters where information has been sourced illegally, including through stolen lists.

The said 'HSBC list' allegedly contains names of Indians and other foreign nationals having ill-gotten wealth in Swiss unit of the global banking major.

India is one of the 36 countries with which Switzerland has signed treaties to provide administrative assistance in tax matters in accordance with international standards.

In its latest annual report on 'international financial and tax matters 2014', the Switzerland's Federal Department of Finance has committed itself to compliance with international standards in the area of tax administrative assistance.

Switzerland has also agreed to cooperate actively on the development of a global standard for automatic exchange of information to ensure the tax compliance of foreign asset management clients, while putting in place a robust regulatory system for identifying the beneficial owners of all types of legal entity, including trusts and domiciliary companies.

A new framework has also been put in place for exchange of information on request and spontaneous exchange of information in a much more effective manner, while work is underway to enable administrative assistance for previously committed tax crimes within the last three years.

Switzerland's tax treaty with India also provides for "exchange of information in tax matters to the widest possible extent without allowing the contracting states to engage in fishing expeditions or to request information that is unlikely to be relevant to the tax affairs of a given taxpayer".

The Swiss regulations also state that "the details to be supplied in the administrative assistance request are important procedural requirements to ensure that fishing expeditions do not occur, but they must not be interpreted in such a way that they frustrate effective exchange of information".

Swiss government has said that it would honour administrative assistance requests, if the requesting country identifies the taxpayer, "although this identification can ensue in a way other than by indicating the name and address".

The requesting country would also need to indicate the name and address of the alleged holder of the information, such as banks, if such information is known to it.

In the case of missing data on the information holder, Switzerland will provide administrative assistance if "requests are in line with the principles of proportionality and practicability in accordance with internationally applicable standards".

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