16 December 2015 13:20:11 IST

Switzerland makes public 2,600 dormant accounts; 4 from India

Total holding in these accounts is estimated at about 44 million Swiss franc

At least four individuals from India today figured in a list of unclaimed bank accounts made public by Switzerland which contains over 2,600 accounts and 80 safe deposit boxes.

The total holding in these accounts is estimated at about 44 million Swiss franc (about ₹300 crore), but the specific figure for the accounts of people from India was not disclosed.

Of the four Indian, place of residence of two has been mentioned as India, while it is Paris (France) for one. The place of residence for the fourth person was not disclosed.

These include Pierre Vachek, whose residence is mentioned as ‘Bombay’, the earlier name of Mumbai, Bahadur Chandra Singh from Dehradun, Dr Mohan Lal from Paris and Kishore Lall. The date of birth has also been disclosed in one case -- that is for Vachek.

The relatives and heirs of these persons will have 1-5 years to submit their claims for these accounts, the Swiss Banking Ombudsman and the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) said.

This is the first time that Switzerland has published such a list that is aimed at giving their owners’ heirs a chance to claim the funds in these accounts. Only those accounts form part of this list which have got at least 500 Swiss francs and have remained unclaimed at least 60 years.

The list contains a large number of people from Switzerland itself, as also from Germany, France, the UK, the US, Turkey, Austria and various other countries.

The list follows a new law in Switzerland that mandates publication of the names of the owners of very old dormant customer relationships on an annual basis starting 2015.

“If no legitimate party claims the assets that have been published within one year of publication, the banks must by law transfer the assets in question to the government,” SBA said.

The claim deadline for potential legitimate claimants is five years if the assets in question have been dormant since at least 1954.

“The number of names published in December 2015 is just over 2,600; connected to these names, there are currently assets of around CHF 44 millions. Additionally, around 80 safe-deposit boxes are currently published,” SBA said.

Claude-Alain Margelisch, CEO of the Swiss Bankers Association, said: “By publishing this information, the banks are making a last attempt to re-establish contact with the customers.

“This publication gives customers and their legal heirs another opportunity to assert their claims to dormant assets before the banks transfer these definitively to the government. For the banks, on the other hand, these new regulations create legal certainty for the treatment of dormant assets.”

Every year, from 2016 onwards, the names of dormant assets relating to an annual period subsequent to 1955 will be published.

In many cases, the list includes the last name and first name of the customer, date of birth, nationality or the company name, as well as their last known place of residence or domicile.

In some cases, the account or savings book number has also been published if the other available information appears to be insufficient for the verification of legitimacy.

This applies to all types of assets including safe- deposit boxes. A claim to assets can be made online along with proof of entitlement.

Switzerland has already started making public the names of Indians and other foreigners with bank accounts that are under scanner and for which the foreign authorities have sought details with sufficient proof.

This is the first time that such a list has been made public by Switzerland, where banks have long been known for keeping top-secret all details of the account holders but the veil of secrecy has begun to come off in recent years.

The list has been published by the Swiss Banking Ombudsman after compiling information from all Switzerland- based banks about the long-dormant accounts in the name of foreigners including those from India, while giving their lawful beneficiaries an opportunity to submit a claim.

These would be accounts that have remained unclaimed since 1955 and the banks have failed to re-establish contact with the respective clients. However, these may not be necessarily the accounts with illicit wealth.

Speculation was rife that there may be accounts belonging to some erstwhile kings, members of ruling families of the former princely states and other wealthy individuals from India, who could have opened Swiss bank accounts but did not transfer the ownership to their children or other persons.