Indian deposits in Swiss banks fell by 34.5 per cent in 2017 and by 80 per cent since the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said in Parliament on Tuesday, citing reliable data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS).
The Minister made the statement to refute the reports which suggested that Indian deposits had risen by 50 per cent in 2017. He told the Rajya Sabha during question hour that he had discussed the issue with Swiss authorities, who told him in a written reply that media reports have not taken account of the way the SNB figures have to be interpreted.
Last month, PTI had reported that SNB data shows money parked by Indians in Swiss banks rose to CHF 1.01 billion (Rs 7,000 crore) in 2017 after falling for three consecutive years.
The Swiss Authorities say that the figures published by the Swiss National Bank are regularly mentioned by the Indian media as a reliable indicator of the amount of assets held with Swiss financial institutions in respect of Indian citizens.
However, the Swiss government says more often than not, the media reports have not taken into account the way the figures have to be interpreted which has resulted in misleading headlines and analysis, the finance minister claimed.
Goyal said according to Swiss authorities, the more reliable data source for deposits held in Switzerland is the "locational banking statistics" (LBS) of Bank of International Settlements.
LBS measures international banking activity from a residence perspective, focusing on the location of banking office and captures around 95 per cent of all cross-border banking activity.
SNB data, on the other hand, includes non-deposit liabilities, the business of Swiss branches located in India, inter-bank transactions and fiduciary liability, Goyal explained.
BIS data show non-bank loans and deposits -- which constitute the individual and corporate deposits and exclude inter-bank transactions -- have fallen by 34.5 per cent in 2017 to USD 524 million compared to USD 800 million in 2016, Goyal said as he vowed to continue the fight against black money.
Further, there has been a significant reduction in Swiss non-bank loans and deposits of Indians by 80.2 per cent between 2013 and 2017, he said.
The figure in 2013 was USD 2.6 billion which came down to USD 2.3 billion in 2014 and USD 1.4 billion 2015.
Moreover, it is frequently assumed that any assets held by Indians are undeclared, he said.
So if you want to know the deposits of Indian residents in Switzerland, the correct data source is called locational banking statistics. The Minister said the Automatic Exchange of Information based on Common Reporting Standard has commenced from 2017 with many countries enabling India to receive financial account information of Indian residents.
This will also be useful in bringing the unaccounted income and assets to tax, he said.
Stating that there was a misconception about deposits in Swiss banks, he said: "Swiss Authorities themselves gave this in writing that the Swiss National Bank in collaboration with the Bank for International Settlements data shows that loans and deposits of Indians other than banks like RBI, State Bank, the deposits of individuals in Switzerland decreased by 34.5 per cent in the last year compared to the previous year and reduced 44 per cent in the last quarter."
He said while the India-Switzerland Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement was amended in 2011 to get information on bank deposits, but no information could be obtained on the HSBC account details till 2014.
Then in October 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent Revenue Secretary and other officials there and after tough negotiations, a joint declaration was issued that they will cooperate in future on giving us information.
After 2014, we have sought over 4,000 pieces of information from them and appropriate action is being taken on the basis of that data in the country.