Swiss bank ordered to share details of Anil Ambani’s accounts with India

Switzerland's apex court has approved a request by India to share bank account details of the Reliance Group chief, his wife and two sons.

ByNoopur Tiwari
Swiss bank ordered to share details of Anil Ambani’s accounts with India
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The Swiss Federal Court has agreed to share information with Indian authorities regarding the bank accounts of Anil Ambani, Tina Ambani and their two children, Swiss publication Gotham City has reported.

Newslaundry has a copy of the apex court’s April 29 ruling approving a request for mutual assistance from the Indian finance ministry’s Foreign Tax and Research Division. It had requested details of Ambani’s Swiss bank accounts covering the period from April 2011 to September 2018 to examine “several offshore structures” in which the Reliance Group head seems to have “financial interests”.

The ruling states that the persons concerned had tried to block mutual assistance arguing that Switzerland shouldn’t authorize this exchange. But their appeal was dismissed in favour of the Indian authorities. The court ruling doesn’t explicitly name the Ambani family, but Gotham City confirmed from court documents that the persons referred to in it as A, B, C, and D are Anil Dhirubhai Ambani, Tina Anil Ambani, Jai Anmol Anil Ambani, and Jai Anshul Anil Ambani. They were defended in the court by Frédéric Serra.

How did François Pilet, who reported the story for Gotham City, confirm that A, B, C, and D in the court ruling were Anil Ambani, his wife and two sons? “As court reporters, we are allowed to see the names of the parties in every decision on the Swiss Supreme Court,” he explained. “This is only possible by going in person to the clerk’s office.”

Pilet also told Newslaundry that Switzerland has “seen a rise in the number of tax requests from India so far this year”, and all of them have been approved by the Federal Supreme Court.

This is a major development as Swiss banking secrecy laws have, for decades, made it next to impossible for governments to seek information regarding suspected money laundering through the country’s private banks. Swiss law requires a special request for administrative assistance to be made to its government, which then decides whether or not to instruct Swiss banks to provide the information. In the last few years, however, pressure has been mounting on Switzerland to provide more assistance to foreign governments investigating their citizens over suspicions of concealing black money in its banks. Sometimes, governments are known to either seek selective information from tax havens or act upon it at their discretion. “Fishing expeditions” to target political opponents and “state tax terrorism” take place when all information is not handled fairly.

If the Swiss bank now shares the required information, it could help the Indian authorities get a full picture of whether or not allegations of corruption against Ambani can be proven. It would, however, require transparency by the Indian authorities for such information to be made public. In the past, whistleblowers have alleged that the Narendra Modi government had refused their offers to help black money investigations.

In 2015, according to the Swiss publication, Anil Ambani had succeeded in canceling a tax adjustment of over 140 million euros concerning one of his Reliance Group companies in France. “A decision that had raised many questions because, as Le Monde had revealed, it came at the same time when the French group Dassault was negotiating a major sale of Rafale with India. The sale was tainted with suspicion of corruption at the highest level of the state, and of which Anil Ambani was said to have been one of the main beneficiaries,” states the Gotham City report.

Suspicions of corruption were raised against Ambani in 2018 when the French news publication Mediapart revealed that his Reliance Group was made Dassault’s industrial partner in the Indo-French Rafale fighter jet deal even though it did not have the requisite profile. The clause in the offset component of the deal required Dassault to generate Rs 30,000 crore worth of business for Reliance Defence.

The French publication had quoted François Hollande, then the French president, as saying, “We did not have any say in this. The Indian government proposed this service group and Dassault negotiated with the Ambani Group. We did not have a choice, we took the partner who was given to us.”

Hollande’s statement raised questions about corruption in the 7.8 billion euro intergovernmental deal led in 2016 by Modi. It seems Anil Ambani was “chosen” as an important beneficiary of the deal. It was also revealed that the Reliance Group had given funding to the then French president’s partner, actor Julie Gayet.

Anil Ambani’s name figured in the HSBC list leaked by Franco-Italian whistleblower Hervé Falciani in 2008 and then again in 2015 in Swissleaks, using the same data. The leaks revealed billions of euros worth of black money from the world over in the Geneva branch of HSBC Private Bank (Suisse). Anil Ambani’s brother, Mukesh Ambani, was also named in these lists. Switzerland has, for decades, been listed as one of the world’s leading tax havens where multinational corporations and the mega rich can hide large sums of money that become hard or impossible to detect by financial authorities.

Noopur Tiwari is an independent journalist based in Paris, France.

Nidhi Suresh contributed reporting.

Update: Anil Dhirajlal Ambani has been corrected to Anil Dhirubhai Ambani.

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