Will raise black money issue during yatra: Advani


New Delhi : Two days ahead of his anti-graft yatra, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani Sunday slammed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over illegal money stashed in tax havens abroad and vowed to raise the issue during his nationwide campaign.

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“Though I will raise the issue of rampant corruption, price rise and extreme poverty that exists in the country during my Jan Chetna Yatra, issue of black money stashed away abroad will figure most prominently,” Advani told a group of rural Delhi residents who gathered at his Prithviraj Road home here to felicitate him ahead of the campaign.

“For the last so many years, I have been saying that huge sums of Indian money have been stashed away abroad in foreign banks, especially in Switzerland,” he said, recalling that during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime, India had raised the issue with Switzerland, though the latter expressed its inability to return the money or share information on the depositors due to their banking secrecy laws.

The Congress reacted sharply to Advani’s assertion, asking him what he had done as home minister and later as deputy prime minister when the NDA was in power from 1998 to 2004.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi also told reporters that he was in a position to give “20 concrete, useful and productive” steps the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had taken as far as illegal money was concerned.

As if expecting the kind of criticism from the Congress, Advani had told the event earlier in the day: “People generally ask us as to what we did about black money when we were in power for six years. I tell them before this the Swiss government never allowed us to access the information.”

However, due to pressure from the US and European countries, the banking secrecy laws were altered by Switzerland recently to allow access to the depositors’ details.

“In 2009, I had rigorously raised the issue of black money during Lok Sabha elections and before that I wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying that when the banks in Switzerland, despite their banking secrecy laws, are returning money to other countries like America and Germany, why can’t India get its money back,” he asked.

Advani said he had asked the prime minister to bring pressure on the Swiss authorities to get the illegal money back to India.

“But unfortunately, he did not take any action in this regard. And when I asked him to at least reveal names of those Indian nationals who had stashed away money abroad, which was our right to know, he did not reveal that either,” he said.

Advani said within two years of Manmohan Singh returning to power as prime minister, the situation in the country had “gone from bad to worse” and everyday there was a new scam stumbling out of the closet.

He said his yatra would create awareness among the countrymen on the huge resources and potential the nation had. “But we will not tolerate corruption and extreme poverty in the country 64 years after independence, and we will not tolerate the issue of black money,” he added.