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Controversy stalks Davos corridors

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A gathering of global political and business leaders is as good a time as any to stage a protest and Swiss pressure groups Berne Declaration and Greenpeace Switzerland never waste the opportunity at WEF’s Davos summit.

This content was published on January 23, 2014 - 10:30

Each year, the NGOs name and shame the worst examples of corporate excess and environmental vandalism during the Public Eye Awards ceremony. This year, it is the turn of Russian energy giant Gazprom and US clothing firm Gap to “win”.

Gazprom’s drilling in the Arctic circle has left a particularly bitter taste in Switzerland after Swiss citizen and Greenpeace activist Marco Weber was arrested and kept behind bars in Russia for three months following a protest at an oil platform in September.

Gap has incurred the ire of Public Eye for failing to sign an accord designed to protect Bangladeshi workers from industrial injury following a devastating fire in a textiles factory (not run by Gap) near Dhaka last May.

On Wednesday, Indian Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram complained to reporters in Davos that Switzerland was dragging its feet over the issue of tax evasion.

“We do not know how much wealth from India is lying in Swiss banks,” he said. “The Swiss government should be providing the answers, but they are not.”

Switzerland has consistently stated that it will not provide administrative assistance in cases involving stolen bank data, some of which has apparently ended up in Indian hands.

Indian media estimate the sum of dirty money in Swiss vaults to be at least $1.3 billion (CHF1.18 billion). India’s Economic Times has recent reports of couriers bringing suitcases of cash into Switzerland and wealthy Indian businessmen taking the opportunity to schedule secret meetings with their Swiss bankers while in Davos.

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