A list of 627 Indians with bank accounts at HSBC in Switzerland has been given in a sealed envelope to the Supreme Court, which yesterday sharply rebuked the government for its handling of attempts to recover untaxed or black money stashed abroad. "We can't leave the issue of bringing back black money to the government. It will never happen during our time," the judges said.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, the government's top lawyer, told NDTV that each of these HSBC accounts will be assessed for any tax violations by March 31, 2015. In a signal that it does not intend to disclose the names at this stage, the Supreme Court said the list must be given to the top officials of a panel it has set up of retired judges and regulators to map the recovery of black money .
The previous Congress government and the new BJP administration have both argued in court that tax treaties with other countries prohibit the disclosure of names till charges are framed. Judges today told the government to present any reservations to its Special Investigation Team (SIT). "It said we must place problems before the SIT for further negotiations on treaties and any economic impact," said the Attorney General.
The government says that the list given today includes some who may have legitimate accounts abroad. Sources say that at the end of this month, the Special Investigation Team will submit a report on 220 HSBC account holders to the court.
The Supreme Court has been monitoring the black money investigation since 2009 based on a petition by noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani.
Along with the list of account holders, the government has reportedly submitted communication with French officials, as well as a status report on its investigation so far. In 2011, France gave Delhi a list of Indians who have bank accounts at HSBC in Geneva - the data was provided by a bank employee who turned whistle-blower.