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Populist Swiss party opposes info-sharing pact with India, 10 other nations

LiveMint logoLiveMint 15-08-2017 PTI

Berne/New Delhi: The Swiss People’s Party (SVP), a populist political party in Switzerland, has opposed automatic exchange of banking information with India and 10 other countries.

The opposition by SVP, which is known as a right-wing populist political party, is in sharp contrast to the official position of the Swiss government, which has cited strong Indian data protection laws for agreeing to include India among jurisdictions for the automatic exchange of information (AEOI) on financial matters. It is one of the largest parties in the Federal Assembly and late last year it had supported a campaign called “Yes to protect bank secrecy in Switzerland”.

Earlier, some private bank groups in Switzerland had opposed the pact, but the government decided to go ahead with this framework after putting in place necessary data protection and confidentiality clauses. A draft memorandum has been ratified by the Swiss Federal Council for implementing the automatic information exchange framework with India, which is expected to come into force from next year. India has been pressing for long to have such a pact amid a widespread perception about Swiss banks being among the most-favoured for the stashing of suspected black money.

In a statement posted on its website after a press conference on the issue, SVP said implementing automatic information exchange pact—which was signed by Switzerland and India last year under a global framework for fighting the black money menace—will have “serious consequences for foreigners who have protected their assets in Switzerland, as also for Swiss residents abroad”. Without giving any specific reason for opposing the pact with India, the party said it would press against automatic information exchange with 11 countries—Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Colombia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates—in a meeting of the economic committee of the national council.

The party said the pact should not be implemented with the countries with less than 45 points on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, or those classified as “not free” on the Freedom House Democracy Index. The freedom house index classifies India as one of the “free” democracies with a high score of 77/100, whereas the US has been given a score of 87. Switzerland has 96 points. India is ranked 79th (out of 176 countries) on the transparency index, with a score of 40/100. Switzerland is ranked fifth with a score of 86 points. On the Freedom House Democracy Index, some of the countries named by SVP are, however, classified as “not free” and these include China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“Despite constitutional reservations, the State Secretariat for International Financial Matters and the Swiss Federal Department of Finance plans to expand the AEOI network by at least 41 countries and territories. Among them are the authoritarian regimes of China and Russia, as well as countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico,” it alleged. The SVP also said the Federal Council and the Swiss Parliament need to take full responsibility for “possible reprisals such as expropriation and blackmail” of Swiss nationals living abroad and it will closely monitor the developments in this area.

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