India to get info on ‘black money’ in Swiss banks

India's finance minister on Wednesday said New Delhi will receive information from Swiss authorities on Indian nationals who have stashed funds in secret bank accounts in the country.

India to get info on 'black money' in Swiss banks
World Economic Forum

Pranab Mukherjee in a debate in parliament on so-called “black money”, however insisted his government would not disclose identities of those who have parked funds in various overseas banks.

“We started two years ago and ultimately it was ratified in October 2011,” he said, referring to a memorandum of understanding inked the same month during a trip to Switzerland by Indian President Pratibha Patil.

The pact aims at tightening cooperation on financial issues by launching a regular dialogue between the two countries.

“It will be effective from the 1st of April (and) we will be getting information and whatever information we get we would like to act on it,” the finance minister said during a lengthy discussion in the elected lower house.

India’s Supreme Court in July ordered a probe into undeclared money in foreign bank accounts, while accusing Mukherjee’s government of “serious lapses” in handling the issue.

The issue of so-called “black money” — funds not reported to the government for tax purposes or parked abroad to avoid tax — is one of the problems that has engulfed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s scandal-tainted administration.

Indians had moved out some $500 million from Swiss banks since 2008, according to the Swiss central bank’s figures.

While the Swiss bank has not revealed the reasons behind the flight of money, Indian regulatory officials believe Indians may be moving funds to harder-to-trace accounts in places such as Singapore and Dubai.

Mukherjee, citing bilateral treaties, said his government will not disclose details of information that it has so far obtained or will receive in the future.

“I have got 36,000 pieces of information (but) if I publish it, some country will say ‘you violated the agreement… we cannot share it’,” he said.

“We will dry up our source of information,” Mukherjee argued.

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Credit Suisse slashes jobs, branches to move ‘online’

Credit Suisse, Switzerland's second-biggest bank, said Tuesday it would reorientate its domestic services towards digital banking, with a quarter of its Swiss branches to close and hundreds of jobs at risk.

Credit Suisse slashes jobs, branches to move 'online'
A Credit Suisse branch. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

“In the last two years alone, use of online banking at Credit Suisse has grown by approximately 40 percent, while the use of mobile banking has more than doubled,” the bank said in a statement.

“The COVID-19 crisis has further accelerated these trends. In contrast, the number of visits to branches has been declining for years.

“Credit Suisse will introduce a new digital offering and a future-oriented branch concept at the end of October.”

The bank also plans to merge the activities of regional subsidiary Neue Aargauer Bank with those under the Credit Suisse brand to avoid duplication.

READ: How to open a bank account in Switzerland 

With its realignment, the bank intends to reduce annual costs by around 100 million Swiss francs ($110 million, 93 million euros) from 2022 onwards. It plans to cut the number of bank branches from 146 to 109.

Meanwhile up to 500 jobs could be axed, Andre Helfenstein, head of the bank's operations within Switzerland, told reporters during a conference call.

The restructuring costs are expected to be 75 million Swiss francs. “Digitalisation is happening all around us,” Helfenstein said in a statement.

“The changes we are making to our branch network — while simultaneously investing in digital solutions and in advisory services for clients with more complex needs — represent a logical step forward.”

In late July, the bank's new chief executive Thomas Gottstein unveiled his plans for Credit Suisse, which involved regrouping its different investment bank activities.

Gottstein took charge in February after Tidjane Thiam was ousted over a massive spying scandal.