Swiss black money probe: Over 100 entities under scanner

As India steps up its pressure on Switzerland to get details of suspected tax evaders having bank accounts in the European nation, a discreet probe is underway of each stock market dealing of over 100 entities linked to these cases to detect possible re-routing of black money.

The entities under watch include individuals whose names figure in a list of over 700 Swiss bank account holders, as also the bankers and associates related to certain banks whose Switzerland-based branches are under scanner.

Besides, 10-15 listed Indian companies including a few blue-chip names directly or indirectly linked to these banks and their Indian customers are also under a close tab for any suspected market manipulations, senior officials said.

It is suspected that some of these entities may have brought back their illicit wealth through the stock market route, by using complex fund structures of certain overseas funds, including those floated by select European banking giants.

The official said that a few large global banks are under scanner, although it is also possible that the banks themselves might be unaware of the illicit activities being carried out by their executives for the benefit of their clients.

He further said that these bankers are suspected to have first convinced their clients to move their funds to non-Swiss locations like Singapore, Dubai and London before eventual transmission to India, to avoid the ever-growing glare or regulatory and intelligence agencies on funds and entities linked to Switzerland.

While jurisdictions like Mauritius and Cyprus earlier used to be preferred as such intermediary locations, these places have themselves come under scanner of Indian agencies and therefore bankers are opting for some new routes.

Refusing to disclose the name of these individuals, banks or the listed companies under scanner, a senior official said these include some really big names and those figuring in the lists of richest persons and biggest companies, but that disclosure of further details at this moment may jeopardise the probes that are still in the initial stages.

These probes come at a time when India has strongly objected to Switzerland's denial of information about account details of certain Indians at HSBC's Swiss bank branches, in whose cases "incriminating evidence of tax evasion" have been found here.

In his third letter to Switzerland in this regard, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said that the interpretation made by Switzerland that it cannot share information as per India's request was not in accordance with international standards.

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