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Income Tax Appellate Tribunal rules against 3 beneficiaries holding account in Alpine tax haven
November, 10th 2014

Five years after Germany gave New Delhi a list of Indians with secret bank accounts in the Alpine tax haven Liechtenstein, the first tribunal ruling has gone in favour of the government.

The case pertains to three Kolkata-based individuals - Mohan Manoj Dhupelia, Ambrish Manoj Dhupelia and Ms Bhavya Manoj Dhupelia - whose names figure in the list of 18 resident Indians who have allegedly stashed money abroad. With the Modi government telling the Supreme Court that it is "committed to disclose the names of persons holding illegal money abroad", the decision by the Mumbai bench of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), a quasi-judicial authority, could serve as a benchmark for several disputes relating to Swiss bank accounts in future.

The tribunal on October 31 dismissed the appeals by the Dhupelias, and upheld the stand of the Income Tax Department which said that the three members of the Dhupelia family are beneficiaries of the Ambrunova Trust which has an account with LGT Bank in Liechtenstein. The tribunal, according to persons who have been tracking the case, is of the view that funds lying in the bank account of the trust reflect unaccounted income of the assessees (i.e, the Dhupelias).

When asked whether the individuals concerned would move high court to challenge the tribunal's decision, Dr K Shivaram, the advocate who represented the Dhupelias, said, "The appeal was dismissed but I don't know the details. I have not received a copy of the order. I have not heard anything so far from them (Dhupelias). One can take a decision only after going through the full order."

Taxing Trust Beneficiaries

Shivaram had argued that neither do the names of Dhupelias appear in the list of beneficiaries of the trust nor had they received any benefit from the trust. The Dhupelias had denied any knowledge of the trust and claimed that they had not received any money from it.

The trust, formed in March 1997, had a balance of $2.4 million as on December 31, 2001 in its account with LTG Bank of Liechtenstein. The tribunal, it is understood, has referred to the documents in possession of the Income Tax Department.

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