Switzerland’s top court allows sharing of data with Indian authorities in tax evasion cases

The federal court in Lausanne, which is the topmost court in Switzerland has allowed its tax authorities to share bank account details of two Indian citizens in connection with a tax evasion probe, Reuters has reported.

As per the report, the matter pertains to a French whistleblower named Herve Falciani, who while working for HSBC had disclosed the names of thousands of customers in 2008 whom he suspected of being involved in tax evasion.

Falcini who was an IT employee at HSBC fled with large quantities of sensitive client data in 2006. After unsuccessfully trying to sell the data in Lebanon, he ultimately handed it over to the French authorities. The French government as a used it to go after thousands of tax evaders.

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As a result of his crime, Falciani was sentenced to five years in jail in absentia for industrial espionage owing to him being outside Switzerland.

According to a Swissinfo report, the Federal court rejected an appeal by two Indian citizens who wanted the information sharing between India and Switzerland blocked under a tax evasion case. The Indian citizens in their defence had claimed that the data required by the Indian authorities was stolen and thus violated the “principle of good faith”.

The judges though disagreed and remarked that it was perfectly fine for a country to use the data for investigative purposes as long as it did not buy the data. Also as explained in the report, the information sharing agreement between India and Switzerland does not require the country to reveal how it chanced upon the data.

The Federal court also ruled that in India’s case it did not make explicit statements about the source of the data it sought, and thus ruled that India should be given access to the data it needs.

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