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India to get info on ‘black money’ in Swiss banks

India's finance minister on Wednesday said New Delhi will receive information from Swiss authorities on Indian nationals who have stashed funds in secret bank accounts in the country.

India to get info on 'black money' in Swiss banks
World Economic Forum

Pranab Mukherjee in a debate in parliament on so-called “black money”, however insisted his government would not disclose identities of those who have parked funds in various overseas banks.

“We started two years ago and ultimately it was ratified in October 2011,” he said, referring to a memorandum of understanding inked the same month during a trip to Switzerland by Indian President Pratibha Patil.

The pact aims at tightening cooperation on financial issues by launching a regular dialogue between the two countries.

“It will be effective from the 1st of April (and) we will be getting information and whatever information we get we would like to act on it,” the finance minister said during a lengthy discussion in the elected lower house.

India’s Supreme Court in July ordered a probe into undeclared money in foreign bank accounts, while accusing Mukherjee’s government of “serious lapses” in handling the issue.

The issue of so-called “black money” — funds not reported to the government for tax purposes or parked abroad to avoid tax — is one of the problems that has engulfed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s scandal-tainted administration.

Indians had moved out some $500 million from Swiss banks since 2008, according to the Swiss central bank’s figures.

While the Swiss bank has not revealed the reasons behind the flight of money, Indian regulatory officials believe Indians may be moving funds to harder-to-trace accounts in places such as Singapore and Dubai.

Mukherjee, citing bilateral treaties, said his government will not disclose details of information that it has so far obtained or will receive in the future.

“I have got 36,000 pieces of information (but) if I publish it, some country will say ‘you violated the agreement… we cannot share it’,” he said.

“We will dry up our source of information,” Mukherjee argued.

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TRAVEL

Travel: Spain imposes mandatory quarantine on arrivals from India over virus strain fears

Spain will make all travellers arriving from India undergo a 10-day quarantine to prevent the potential spread of the Asian country’s coronavirus variant within the Spanish territory.

Travel: Spain imposes mandatory quarantine on arrivals from India over virus strain fears
Photo: JACK GUEZ/AFP

Spanish government spokesperson María Jesús Montero made the announcement on Tuesday, explaining that as there are no direct flights between Spain and India, it isn’t possible for Spain to adopt measures such as banning arrivals outright as other European countries have done.

The quarantine requirement for travellers arriving to Spain from India starts on May 1st 2021.

India joins a number of South American and African nations that are already on Spain’s quarantine list to stem the spread of the Brazilian and South African variants. 

According to the Spanish government’s website, those “coming from the Federative Republic of Brazil, the Republic of South Africa, Republic of Botswana, Union of Comoros, Republic of Ghana, Republic of Kenya, Republic of Mozambique, United Republic of Tanzania, Republic of Zambia, Republic of Zimbabwe, Republic of Peru and Republic of Colombia, must remain in quarantine for 10 days after their arrival in Spain, or for the duration of their stay if it is shorter than that. This period may end earlier, if on the seventh day the person is tested for acute infection with negative results.”

India is currently battling a record-breaking rise in Covid-19 infections that has overwhelmed hospitals and led to severe bed and oxygen shortages.

A key question is whether a new variant with potentially worrying mutations – B.1.617 – is behind what is currently the world’s fastest-growing outbreak, setting four records in a row for the highest daily coronavirus infections by one country, the latest on Sunday with 349,691 new cases.

The country has also been recording around 3,000 deaths per day from Covid-19. 

Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Italy and the Netherlands have all imposed restrictions or travel bans on arrivals from India in recent days.

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“No cases of the Indian variant have been detected to date to my knowledge,” Spain’s Emergencies Coordinator Chief Fernando Simón told journalists on Monday. 

“The intel does not indicate that we have to worry about it,” he added, given that the UK variant now makes up 94 percent of all infections in Spain. 

“We cannot rule out that a case (of the Indian variant) may be detected”, Simón admitted, but “so far it is not a variant of concern, it is a variant of interest”.

Patients breath with the help of oxygen masks inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid-19 coronavirus ward in New Delhi on April 27th, 2021. (Photo by Money SHARMA / AFP)

That is not a view shared by Amós José García Rojas , president of the Spanish Association of Vaccinations (AEV), who argues “we have to worry a lot” about the “chaos” that this new variant is leaving in the Asian country and why it could affect the spread of this strain of the virus.

“This new variant is fundamentally worrying because of what it is causing in India,” Rojas told medical publication Redacción Médica. 

“It shows that as there are territories where people are largely not vaccinated, there’s many people who are susceptible to the virus and it creates a breeding ground for the development of new variants”.

“We cannot vaccinate comprehensively in some countries and forget about other countries at the mercy of God.

“We have to worry about everyone because there is a risk that situations like the one seen in India will happen again. 

So far, the B.1.617 variant has been categorised by the World Health Organisation as a “variant of interest”.

Other variants detected in Brazil, South Africa and the UK have been categorised as “of concern”, because they are more transmissible, virulent or might reduce antibody efficacy.

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