The Ministry of Finance has refused to share details of Swiss bank accounts of Indians, saying such disclosures are prohibited under “confidentiality provisions” of a tax treaty signed between the two countries, PTI reported on Monday.
The ministry, in its response to a Right to Information query of a PTI journalist, also refused to disclose black money-related information received from other countries. “Information exchanged under such tax agreements is covered under confidentiality provisions of respective agreements,” the ministry added. “Thus, disclosure of tax related information and information sought/obtained from foreign governments is exempted under section 8  [a] and 8  [f] of the Right to Information [RTI] Act.”
Section 8 (1) (a) of the RTI Act prohibits disclosure of information “which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign state or lead to incitement of an offence”. Section 8 (1) (f) exempts disclosure of “information received in confidence from foreign government”.
In December 2017, India and Switzerland signed a multilateral convention called Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, which enables the two countries to automatically exchange financial data. This September, India got the first set of Swiss bank account details from Switzerland.
The Indian government had refused to divulge information on black money cases received from Switzerland in May too, saying it was confidential. The finance ministry said the two countries share information on black money according to the cases under investigation, and pointed out that it was an ongoing process.
Last year, the Swiss National Bank’s annual report said money kept by Indians in Swiss banks rose over 50% to 1.01 billion Swiss francs (Rs 6,974 crore) in 2017.