Kejriwal guns for Swiss bank account holders

Last Updated: Fri, Nov 09, 2012 15:10 hrs

New Delhi: Activist-politician Arvind Kejriwal Friday accused industrialists Mukesh and Anil Ambani, Jet Airways chief Naresh Goyal, Congress MP Annu Tandon and several other Indians of holding money in Swiss banks, allegations most of them denied. But the BJP demanded a probe to clear the air.

Alleging that HSBC Bank was facilitating what he said was money laundering, Kejriwal demanded the arrest of its top officials and the suspension of its operations in India.

He also wanted the government to raid the 700 odd people with Swiss bank accounts on the strength of information provided by the French government. His own tip off, he said, came from a senior Congress leader.

The Indian government, he said, was not serious about unearthing black money stashed in Swiss banks.

The Congress quickly came to the government's defence. Party spokesman Rashid Alvi asked Kejriwal to submit his evidence for an official inquiry instead of simply addressing the media.

"In July 2011, the Indian government received a list of roughly 700 people having bank accounts in HSBC, Geneva. The list contains bank balances of these people in 2006," Kejriwal told a crowded press conference here.

According to him, the list named the Ambani brothers of having Rs.100 crore each in Swiss banks, Congress MP Tandon (Rs.125 crore), an equal amount in the name of her late husband Sandeep Tandon, and Jet Airways' Goyal (Rs.80 crore).

Three brothers who own Dabur have Rs.25 crore in Swiss banks while Yashovardhan Birla and Kokila Dhirubhai Ambani's accounts have no balance, he alleged.

A former Indian Revenue Service officer, Kejriwal said that India Against Corruption (IAC) got the information provided to it verified "through our sources".

Kejriwal's allegations -- the fourth in a series that have targeted alleged corruption in high places -- were quickly denied.

Among the first to react was Annu Tandon, a Lok Sabha member from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh.

"This is a completely baseless and malicious allegation. I completely deny any corruption," she said.

Reliance Industries said the Swiss unit of HSBC Plc had apologized to Mukesh Ambani in January for embroiling him in a probe by India's income tax authorities after his name cropped up in a list of people with beneficiary accounts.

The error was blamed on Ambani's past association with Flag Telecom that runs a network of undersea communications cables and which had an account with the bank, it said.

Jet Airways issued a denial on behalf of Goyal, saying he had no accounts in Swiss banks.

According to Kejriwal, the CBI director had once said that more than Rs.25 lakh crore of "ill-gotten Indian money" was stashed abroad.

He said while black money was a threat to India's economic sovereignty, the central government was trying to shield those holding black money.

Kejriwal said former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had planned an amnesty for all the 700 Swiss account holders.

"Like America, we should enact a law that makes it mandatory for foreign banks operating in the country to furnish a list of all (Indian) account holders to the income tax department," he said.

Kejriwal admitted he had no documents to back his claims regarding the allegations he was making, but provided what he said were the confessional statements of three people with Swiss bank accounts who were raided.

"If information about these three is correct, one could reasonably assume that the information about others would also be correct."

The IAC leader hit out at HSBC, accusing it of running a hawala racket.

He claimed that an income tax official had told his seniors that HSBC officials were indulging in hawala. "No action has been taken against HSBC."

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Left leaders asked the government to act on Kejriwal's allegations.

"We demand an investigation since so many versions are coming. If the government cannot explain what action they have taken, we demand they investigate this HSBC affair," said BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman.

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