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Friday, November 9, 2012

In expose 4, Kejriwal guns for Swiss account holders

Training its guns on black money stashed in Swiss banks, India Against Corruption (IAC) on Friday called for an immediate halt to operations of HSBC in India, alleging its involvement in money laundering and hawala.

At a packed press conference here, Arvind Kejriwal and lawyer Prashant Bhushan of IAC said their allegations were based on the list of 700 people who, they claimed, had accounts in HSBC’s Geneva branch. They said the names were in a CD given by the French Government to India in July 2011.

According to Kejriwal, it was a Congress leader who gave IAC some names on the list, which were cross-checked by them. The list, he said, included names of top corporates such as Mukesh Ambani, Anil Ambani, Naresh Goyal of Jet Airways, one Motech Software (said to be a Reliance company), three members of the Dabur family, Annu Tandon, Congress MP from Unnao and her husband, among others.

“Since the Income-Tax Department has raided 125 people from this list and three among them – P.S. Kalra, Vikram Dhirani and Praveen Sawhney – have admitted that they had Swiss bank accounts that had not been declared for taxation, one could reasonably assume that the information about the others would be correct,” he said.

Kejriwal alleged that the statements of the three people, copies of which were distributed at the conference, showed that HSBC “is openly and brazenly running a hawala racket in India.”

He said as per the statements of these three men, one just needed to contact HSBC in India to open a Swiss account. “They would send someone to your home, get forms filled up, take money in cash and the account would get opened in Geneva or Dubai….”

“Perhaps it is easier to open a Swiss bank account than one in State Bank of India,” he said, and added that this raised questions about terror, drug and hawala money easily flowing to and fro, threatening the country’s economic sovereignty.

IAC accused the Manmohan Singh Government and former Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, of “misleading Parliament and shielding big names” and demanded that IT raids be conducted on all the 700 names on the said list.

Meanwhile, the Congress rubbished Kejriwal’s charges. Party spokesperson Rashid Alvi said the UPA Government had initiated a number of steps against black money.

The BJP, however said the allegations were “serious”. “The Congress is not serious in addressing the menace of black money,” party spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.

No comments: HSBC

HSBC Bank in India declined to comment on IAC’s allegations even as it acknowledged taking note of it. The bank said it cannot comment on the specific details of the allegations that have been made, which relate to issues in the past.

“HSBC takes compliance with the law, wherever it operates, very seriously,” it said in a statement, adding that group was committed to investing in and growing its operations in India.

Allegations baseless, say Ambanis, Dabur

Reliance Industries Ltd denied the allegations made against the company and its Chairman Mukesh Ambani.

Reliance had business interests in several countries with turnover of thousands of crores in rupees, an RIL statement said, adding that as a part of its normal business, international subsidiaries of RIL deal with several global banks, including HSBC.

“These accounts are fully compliant with all regulations and are disclosed in their appropriate jurisdictions and in India”, it said.

A spokesperson for Anil Ambani said, “Anil D. Ambani had no bank accounts with HSBC in Geneva. It is regrettable that such baseless allegations are being made by IAC at the behest of vested interests.”

A Dabur statement said it was unfortunate that “every person having a foreign bank account is being painted with the same brush.”

It said “these accounts were opened by the Burman family members when they were NRIs, and were legally allowed to open such accounts. The amount being referred to in the media, pertaining to these accounts, has been officially remitted from India through official banking channels and as per applicable FEMA guidelines.”

A Jet Airways spokesperson said “there is no account in the name of Mr Naresh Goyal in the Swiss bank”.

He said Goyal has been an NRI since January 1991 and was entitled to have bank accounts outside India.


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