‘Swiss Leaks’ explained in 7 questions

Image source: IANS

News of the ‘Swiss Leaks’ broke early morning today. The leaked documents from HSBC’s Geneva branch have instigated a raging political debate in India — and the revelations of new names of Indian account holders promises to only fuel the fire.

But, what exactly are the ‘Swiss Leaks’? We explain.

1. How did the ‘Swiss Leak’ happen?

In 2008, December, Swiss police arrested an HSBC employee Harve Falciani for stealing data from his employer. He was interrogated for hours and released for the day on the condition that he will be back for further questioning the next day.

Falciani had other ideas. He rented a car, gathered his wife and children, and fled to France. Once there, he began downloading vast amounts of HSBC data that he had stored on remote servers.

2. What did the data contain?

The HSBC data that Falciani leaked contained about 60,000 leaked files that provide details on over 100,000 HSBC clients and their bank accounts. The clients came from 203 countries and the balance in the leaked accounts was a whopping $102.05 billion.

3. How was the latest list obtained?

Falciani handed over the list to the French government, which was scooped by the French paper Le Monde. As the list contained names from across the world (203 countries), Le Monde contacted the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

ICIJ, in turn, signed agreements with over 140 journalists from over 45 news organisations across the globe to investigate and publish the findings simultaneously across the globe on February 9, 2015.

4.  Who are the account holders in India?

There are “1,195” Indian clients in the list. And some of them are prominent to say the least.

  • Mukesh Ambani, Rs 164.92 crore.
  • Anil Ambani, Rs 164.92 crore.
  • Naresh Kumar Goyal, Founder Chairman of Jet Airways. Rs 116 crore.
  • Burman family, owners of Dabur. Rs 77.5 crore.
  • Anuragh Dalmia, Vice Chairman of Dalmia (Bros) Pvt Ltd. Rs 59.5 crore.
  • D V Salgaocar, Dipti Salgaocar,  Rs 32 crore.
  • K S Dhingra, G S Dhingra, Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Berger Paints. Rs 25.6 crore.
  • Shravan & Shilpi Gupta, Founders of EMAAR MGF. Rs 209.56 crore.
  • Bhushan Lal Sawhney, MD of  Sawhney Tyres. Rs 16.7 crore.
  • Admiral S M Nanda & Suresh Nanda, Former navy chief and Lt Commander in the Indian Navy, respectively. Rs 14.2 crore.
  • Mohammed Hasseed Shaw, MD of Cottage Arts Emporium. Rs 13.2 crore.
  • Subash Vasant Sathe, Indrani Sathe, Son and daughter-in-law of former Union minister Vasant Sathe. Rs 4.64 crore.
  • Surinder Kapur, Chairman of Sona Koyo. Rs 2.51 crore.
  • Smita Thackeray, Daughter-in-law of the late Bal Thackeray. Rs 64 lakh.
  • Neelam Narayan Rane, Nilesh Rane, wife and son of the former chief minister of Maharashtra.
  • P K & HK Khaitan, owners of Khaitan and Company.
  • K Raheja family, Chairman of K Raheja Corporation.
  • Mahima Chaudhary, Bollywood actress.
  • J R Sood, Chairman of the Eros Group of companies.
  • O P Lohia, Chairman and MD of the Indo Rama Group.

5. Does this list of Indian names include those names already being investigated by the Supreme Court’s SIT?

Yes. 628 names, which were provided by the French government in 2011, also figure in the new list.

 6. Is all the money lying in the HSBC accounts illegal, or black money?

Not necessarily. There may be legal accounts wherein permission has been taken from Indian authorities. However, people who have not taken permission face penalties and, in some cases, even prosecution.

7. What has the Indian government done to prosecute the illegal account holders?

About “60 prosecutions have been launched” in about 7 months since the Modi government took over. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley says that assessments of around 350 account holders had already been done and the remaining will be completed by March 31.