Swiss authorities have received requests for information concerning possible Swiss bank accounts of Indian defence deals broker Sanjay Bhandari. He is under investigation for allegedly helping Swiss firm Pilatus secure an order for 75 training aircraft for the Indian Air Force in 2012.
The decision on whether or not to release information relating to Bhandari’s Swiss assets was announcedexternal link on April 11 in the Federal Gazette. The decision itself is confidential and it is not known if any bank details were transmitted to the Indian authorities. Bhandari is currently a fugitive and is believed to be hiding in England.
A raid conducted on Bhandari’s premises by income tax officials in 2016 unearthed documents allegedly showing a payment of CHF750,000 ($774,000) made by Pilatus to his firm Offset India Solutions in 2010. This June, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) launched a preliminary enquiry into whether the payments had anything to do with Pilatus winning a huge contract - worth over CHF500 million - in 2012 to supply the Indian Airforce with 75 PC-12 MKII training aircrafts.
When contacted, Pilatus declined to comment on the CBI investigation.
End of an era
Request for banking information of this kind could soon become a thing of the past. As of 2017, the ‘Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters’ has come into effect in Switzerland. Now countries with which Switzerland has signed agreements - including India – will no longer need to request information on their citizen’s Swiss bank accounts. The data will be handed over automatically once a year. However, this data can only be used for tax collection efforts and cannot be made public.
Switzerland has begun collecting such data from 2017 onwards and begin sharing it with select countries (mostly European ones) from 2018. India is among another batch of countriesexternal link that will have to wait until 2019 for the first data exchange, pending parliamentary approval.