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Monday, May 1, 2017

famous Jeweller of Dehradun sentenced for holding Bank Account in Swiss !!

In early 2011, several reports Indian media alleged Swiss Bankers Association officials to have said that the largest depositors of illegal foreign money in Switzerland are Indians.  Though these were to be denied immediately later by Swiss Bankers Association as well as the central bank of Switzerland – there have been many reported list containing the name of Indians having such black money deposits. 

In March, the salaried Indian middle class gets a different stress ! – Employers would be deducting tax at source; many would have assured saving in specified schemes X amount,  trying to have some IT exemption – at the 11th  hour would find that they could not save~ interestingly some would borrow to save !!  April is different, salaried middle class ordinary Indian is busy providing details of proposed savings and possible deductions towards Housing loan and more !!

Money problem would mean different to different persons.  Often the talk dwells on ‘black money’, nay not the colour of money.  Sometime back …. ‘a YYY group gave crores of loan, free of interest to that Eye hospital, which one were seeing at every corner that time.  It also gave substantial amount of Rs 40 cr in cash — that is, black money — ‘all on a single day’, ‘as a single transaction’ – the cash reportedly found its way to an influential politician who was an ex Central Minister…  Corruption, hoarding of money, black money and stashing money in foreign banks have been haunting the Nation and have been the themes of many blockbuster films where the incidence of black money is very high !

Till a few decades ago, men lived for their pride – keeping up promises and paying back debts were virtues and somebody not able to do so would even give up their lives.  Those who were unable to pay back their debts for some reasons announced their position by filing ‘insolvency petition’ [called yellow leaf-let] and those who had done so, had no honour in the society and would often commit suicide.  In recent times, we often see that Companies [chit funds and others] collect public money, don’t repay and cheat the public – the owners / directors when arrested, merrily wave their hands to the media, as if they had just achieved some notable thing.

In Sankar’s  ‘Sivaji, the Boss’ the story line was black money…. In Kandasamy, Vikram would hack the password and transfer millions of the villain’s account. In Hollywood style, James Bond enters a Swiss bank in Spain and is frisked before he can meet with the banker. In the "Da Vinci Code," a triangular-shaped key activates a robotic arm that pulls a safety deposit box from the wall in a Swiss bank in Paris to ultimately reveal the secret to Christianity. Never sure whether such things would happen and for that matter not sure even of imagination, on what a Swiss bank looks like.   Mostly we have a distorted or mostly unrealistic view of what it really means to have the prestigious Swiss bank account.  Our imagined Swiss bank accounts is for millionaires, criminals or government officials trying to hide ill-gotten wealth,  celebrities protecting their assets from former spouses.

Ever heard realistic version of a person holding Swiss bank account  ? – here is a Dehradun jeweler who has been handed imprisonment !

The court of the Dehradun Chief judicial Magistrate (CJM) recently  sentenced the owner of a famous jewellery showroom  at Dehradun  to two years' rigorous imprisonment for “hiding“ his Swiss bank account from the income tax (I-T) department. The court also slapped a fine of Rs.8 lakh on Raju Verma, who owns Punjab Jewellers on Rajpur Road. A prosecution lawyer said the I-T department had found that Verma had `92 lakh in his Swiss bank account in 2006, “which he had not disclosed to evade tax“. The jeweller has been convicted under Section 276 C (1) (wilful attempts to evade any tax) and Section 277 (false statement in verification) of the Income Tax Act 1961. The court, however, freed Verma on bail for a month to appeal in a higher court.

Incidentally , the I-T department had received a written complaint in 2012 which claimed that Verma had a personal bank account in HSBC's Geneva branch in Switzerland, which he had not disclosed to the government. “On the basis of the complaint, I-T department sleuths raided his house on Dehradun's Curzon Road on March 14, 2012 and recovered important documents regarding his Swiss bank account. He neither took the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) permission to open the account and nor did he disclose the money deposited in it,“ prosecution lawyer SM Jain said. After gathering evidence against the jeweller, the income tax department filed a complaint with the economic offences wing of the CJM court in Dehradun in 2015. During the trial, the prosecution examined six I-T department officials, including its commissioner and inspectors, to prove the offence.  An official told TOI that ED imposed a fine of `5 lakh on Verma for violating Fema rules, which has already been paid by him.

For all that hype surrounding Swiss accounts, the secretive era could be at an end.  The neutral country has long been famed for its anonymous accounts which can be used to facilitate money laundering and tax evasion as well as being used for entirely legitimate purposes.  It has now bowed to increasing pressure to come into line with international transparency standards by introducing rules that ensure bank accounts details will be shared with tax authorities of other nations.

More than one hundred other states have already signed up to the international agreement. Switzerland will begin collecting the information this year and share it in 2018 with other signatories to the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters. Prior to 2017, Switzerland only provided bank account information upon request to countries with which it had signed a bilateral agreement to prevent double taxation. Even then, there was no guarantee of full cooperation. Data will now be automatically shared once a year among all countries who have signed up to the agreement.

For most of us, the news is interesting but has little or no relevance !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

20th Apr 2017.

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