New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government has never said that it will not reveal the names of Indians who have undeclared income parked in foreign bank accounts. "The Congress will be embarrassed by the names when we reveal them in court," said Mr Jaitley in an exclusive interview to NDTV today.
Last week, the opposition Congress exercised "I told you so" gloating when the government told the Supreme Court that it cannot yet publicly disclose a list handed over by Germany in 2009 of Indians with accounts in the tax haven of Lichtenstein.
Tax treaties forbid the disclosure of names till charges are framed in court, Mr Jaitley said, underlining however, that this process will not take much longer. "Once we inform the court, the names will automatically come out in public; the media and Congress got this story all wrong," he said, adding that it's the Congress who needs to be worried, not the BJP.
Mr Jaitley stressed that the tax treaties that compel confidentiality at this stage of investigation were signed by the Congress government in 1995.
The recovery of black or illicit money from abroad was turned into a major campaign issue by the BJP ahead of the national election; the party said the Congress was using tax treaties as an excuse to shield the guilty.
The Supreme Court has set up a special team to work out how to recover black money. The case was brought to the top court by noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani in 2009. The top court has said the Lichtenstein names should be shared with Mr Jethmalani, which would amount to them being made public.
A separate list of at least 500 Indians who held accounts at HSBC in Switzerland was scrutinized by the government. Mr Jaitley said that Switzerland has agreed to share information about those Indians against whom evidence has already been collected in India by tax officials. Given Switzerland's confidentiality rules, this is a major breakthrough, he said.