Finance Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday claimed that Congress President Rahul Gandhi was “maligning the country’s image” by alleging that deposits of black money by Indians in Swiss banks had increased. Goyal said Gandhi’s claims were founded on “baseless reports” and that Indian funds parked in Swiss banks had in fact reduced by 34% in 2017, PTI reported.

Funds parked by Indians in Swiss banks rose over 50% to Rs 7,000 crore to CHF 1.01 billion (Rs 6,974 crore) in 2017, the Swiss National Bank’s annual report showed last month.

Gandhi had said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had failed to keep his promises to bring back black money. “But in 2018, Modi is claiming that the money in Swiss banks is ‘white’, not ‘black’,” he said.”

Goyal said on Tuesday that Gandhi had the habit of “saying things without knowing the facts”.

The finance minister said data provided by Swiss authorities showed that Indian deposits in the country’s banks in 2017 fell 34% to $524 million (Rs 3,609 crore). In the October-December 2017 quarter, “locational banking statistics” showed these deposits reduced by 44% over the corresponding period in 2016, Goyal claimed.

“This clearly reflects that people are afraid of the Narendra Modi government,” the finance minister asserted. “The government will take strict against the hoarders of black money.”

Goyal claimed that while the previous United Progressive Alliance government did nothing to combat black money, the Modi government had taken a “series of steps”. “India also signed an agreement with Switzerland on December 21, 2017,” he said. “Both countries started collecting data in accordance with global standards on January 1, 2018, and would start the exchange of data from September 2019 on a yearly basis.”

Union minister Arun Jaitley had said last month that not all Indian money parked in Swiss banks was illegal.