Taking on BJP prime ministerial candidate LK Advani’s demand to bring back Indian money stashed away in Swiss banks, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday said the government was already monitoring suspicious financial transactions.
The external affairs minister said the UPA government had already done the ground work for monitoring such transactions through amendment of the Prevention of the Money Laundering Act, 2002 and that it had taken up the matter with the Swiss authorities.
The UPA government has asked the India envoy in Switzerland to take up the matter with the Swiss authorities and find out details of Indian accounts, the external minister said.
Raising his poll pitch, Mukherjee alleged that Advani was trying to make an issue out of a non-issue.
The BJP is claiming that about $500 billion to $1,400 billlion belonging to Indians have been deposited in the Swiss banks. The BJP patronised media quoting one annual report has put the figure at $1,500 billion to $1,900 billion. Now which one is correct? We have checked with the Swiss Banking Association and it has not confirmed to us any annual report, he said.
Mukherjee, addressing a press conference here on Tuesday, said the NDA government had passed the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002 but admitted it was not stringent enough to comply with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), of which the UPA government was trying to become a member.
The FATF is an intenational agency comprising many countries that has imposed stringent laws for financial regulation but Indian laws on financial regulation were not up to the mark to become its member.
“The UPA government made two amendments to the Money Laundering Act. One, we have set up a Financial Intelligence Unit, which is collecting information from different banks and financial institutions about money stashing and two, we are entering into agreements like double taxation avoidance agreement with different countries to check money laundering,” Mukherjee said.
On the question of aligning with the Left, he said Congress would take the option of forming a government with Left support if required. He, however, reiterated that the Congress would not support a third front government led by the Left even if it paves the way for the BJP-led NDA to come to power