THE UPA Government – if government it is – is on its last legs. Its reaction to Baba Ramdev’s challenge is as vicious as it is self-defeating. Vile behaviour symbolises the coming end. As is said by our ancient rishis: Vinasha kale viparita buddhi. Meanwhile, it is time to remind the UPA of some basic truths that were pronounced months ago. In an editorial in The Free Press Journal (November 20, 2010) it was clearly stated that the names of the Indians holding illegal accounts in a Liechtenstein Bank had been supplied to the authorities by their German counterparts but “they are yet to be made public”.
Said the editorial: “Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee did admit having received the said names of the illicit account-holders in the Liechtenstein Bank but no further action has been taken to this day”. Truth Two: A news item in The Asian Age (February 14, 2011) mentioned that “Switzerland is willing to share information on Indians holding secret bank accounts there”. It quoted Switzerland’s envy in Delhi, Philippe Welti as saying: “We now have an agreement with the Government of India. Under it, if the government sends us a request, we will comply and provide the necessary information which is asked of us.
Now there is an awareness in my country that people in India that our country is used to hide tax-evaded money. That’s why Switzerland has decided that whenever a request for information is sent, it would be provided under tax fraud and evasion.” He is further reported to have said: “I do understand this is a sensitive case in India, and Switzerland is ready to fully cooperate within the legal framework of our signed agreement”. Another media report on March 5, 2011 said that the government has identified twenty countries with whom it would enter into agreements – in the form of information exchange and general assistance – for the return of black money stashed away by Indians abroad.
That was what Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh told the Lok Sabha on March 5. The prioritised countries were named. They are: Bahamas, Bahrein, Congo, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Marshall Island, Monaco, Panama, Seychelles, St Kitts & Nevis, Maldives, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, the Netherlands and Macau. The news item said: “India’s black money abroad is believed to be more than its Foreign Exchange reserves… India has stashed away no less than $ 1.4 trillion in Black Money in Swiss Banks.” On March 28, 2011, The Hindu quoted eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani as saying that “no government in this country is interested in enforcing the law relating to money laundering”. He is further quoted as saying: “The Government has filed an affidavit in the Court that it has received a list of account holders in Swiss banks. But it is not divulging the names. This is a fraud”.
According to Jethmalani, “about $ 1,500 billion is reported to be stashed away in Swiss banks. If it is brought back, the Government will then be able to liquidate the entire debt of the nation, provide a tax-free budget for thirty years and also give a sum of Rs 2.5 lakh to each family”. Writing in Eternal India (May 2011), Subramaniam Swamy, a former Union Cabinet Minister of Commerce, Law and Justice says: “Indians have about $ 1.5 trillion in Swiss Banks alone… all this money can be brought back by legal methods within two months, but who can cast the first stone today?” It seems that “in a candid conversation” with Subramaniam Swamy in February 1991, Rajiv Gandhi admitted being a legatee to Rs 10,000 crore in illegal Swiss bank deposits.
Writes Swamy: “Originally these accounts were in the names of various Nehru family members, including Rajiv Gandhi. He is no more, but in February 1991, in a candid conversation, with me, he confided with genuine regret why and how this came about and what he would do, once he became Prime Minister again. But he was assassinated and the booty has gone to his named beneficiary, which has grown since then to Rs 25,000 crore…”. According to Subramaniam Swamy, some of the money in foreign banks is returning to India, thanks to Participatory Notes (PNs) through the Bombay Stock Exchange. (BSE). There is a controversy about how much Indian money is stashed away abroad and the amount ranges from $ 462 to 1.5 trillion.
From 1956 onwards several experts have provided us with their estimates and we don’t need one more Committee to delve into the subject. All that we need is action and the UPA Government seems unwilling to take it, whatever the amount that is banked outside India. Promises remain what they are: mere promises. The UPA government is totally untrustworthy and should be sacked.
Meanwhile, may one ask what action is being taken against retired civil servants suspected of tax evasion? According to a report in The Indian Express (May 8) “the government is likely to launch a serious probe against 150 retired babus who have taken up direct or indirect jobs with India Inc and multi-national operations in India”. It is noted that the Department of Personnel has already collected the list of 150 such officers who retired after 2004 and took up “lucrative assignments at a salary ranging from Rs 50 lakh to Rs 5 crore a year”. The current salary of a secretary is around Rs 80,000 pm” The probe is not to be limited only to ex-IAS officers. It seems nearly a dozen retired senior Indian Foreign Service officers, 18 ex-Chiefs and Directors of Public Sector Units (PSUs) and around six former Indian Police Service officials are also targetted for investigation.
Apparently some former Cabinet and Finance Secretaries are on the Boards of over a dozen big companies. Incidentally, is it true that on September 27, 2001, Rahul Gandhi and his girl friend were arrested by the FBI at Boston’s Logan Airport in the United States with $ 160,000 in cash, without declaring it to the U.S. Customs? It would seem, according to Subramaniam Swamy who has made this revelation, US law requires cash-in-hand of more than $ 10,000 to be declared. If Swamy is to be believed, Rahul was let off after nine hours in FBI custody at the intervention of the then BJP government “which for some mysterious reason had played guardian to Sonia Gandhi and her family throughout their tenure”.
Meanwhile, isn’t it time for overseas countries whose banks are taking tax-evasion monies from foreigners, especially Indians, to be taken to task by the UN Security Council for wholesale cheating? Switzerland has to be condemned for being home to thieves and scoundrels and promoting international immorality. It has to be booked for wrong doing on a massive scale, unacceptable to any decent society.