Lok Sabha elections 2019: Prime Minister Narendra Modis opponents today virtually lost one of the biggest poll planks they could have deployed at ease against the ruling BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections campaign – Black Money. A recent report claiming 50% rise in money parked by Indians in Swiss banks had given the opposition the right ammunition at the right time to take on Modi. Perhaps, not anymore. Remember, black money was one of the most prominent poll issues during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections campaign. Modi had then reaped a fortune by convincing people he would put a curb on the flow of black money from India to the Swiss banks. The prime ministers promise took a big beating last month when news agency PTI reported that money parked by Indians in Swiss banks rose over 50% to Swiss Francs (CHF) 1.01 billion (Rs 7,000 crore) in 2017. Coming in the year after demonetisation, which Modi projected as a move to curb domestic black money among many other things, the report suggested a surprise reverse of three-year downward trend amid Modi governments clampdown on suspected black money stashed there. However, it now turns out that the PTI report was wrong, according Union finance minister Piyush Goyal. The minister informed the Parliament today that Indian deposits in Swiss banks fell by 34.5 per cent in 2017 and by 80 per cent since the Modi government came to power in 2014. The minister cited data from the global body of central banks, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). Goyal rebutted last months report that had quoted Swiss National Bank, Switzerlands central bank, as saying in its annual report that Indian deposits had risen by 50 per cent in 2017. Goyal told the Rajya Sabha that Swiss authorities told him in a written reply that that media reports didnt take into account the way the (SNB) figures have to be interpreted. PTI today quoted Goyal saying: The Swiss Authorities say that the figures published by the Swiss National Bank are regularly mentioned by the Indian media as a reliable indicator of the amount of assets held with Swiss financial institutions in respect of Indian citizens. They clarify how this is wrong. They say more often than not, the media reports have not taken into account the way the figures have to be interpreted which has resulted in misleading headlines and analysis. This is (the Swiss) government response.Moreover, it is frequently assumed that any assets held by Indian residents in Switzerland are undeclared (so-called According to Swiss authorities, Goyal said, the more reliable data source for deposits held in Switzerland is the Locational Banking Statistics (LBS) of Bank of International Settlements. In a written reply to the Parliament, the finance ministry said, The Data Collected by Swiss National Bank in collaboration with Bank for International Settlements (BIS) shows that the loans and deposits of Indians, other than Banks, in the Swiss banks decreased by 34.5% in the year 2017 as compared to 2016. Further, there has been significant reduction in Swiss non-bank loans and deposits of Indians by 80.2% between 2013 and 2017. The government of India has undertaken a number of initiatives since 2014 to curb the black money stashed abroad. According to the finance ministry, some of them are: India has become a leading force in the efforts to forge a multi-lateral regime for proactive sharing of Financial Information known as Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI). This assists the global efforts to combat tax evasion. The AEOI based on Common Reporting Standard (CRS) commenced from 2017, enabling India to receive financial account information of Indian residents in other countries. India has entered into information sharing agreement with the USA under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) of USA. The exchanges under FATCA have taken place for the financial years 2014, 2015 and 2016. India proactively engaged with foreign governments, for exchange of information under Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAAs)\/Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs)\/Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters\/South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation(SAARC) Multilateral Agreement. India and Switzerland are signatories to the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters (MAC) and both countries have also signed the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement (MCAA) pursuant to which the Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) is activated between the two countries for sharing of financial account information effective from 01.01.2018 with first transmission in 2019. This means, India will receive the information of financial accounts held by Indian residents in Switzerland for 2018 and subsequent years, on an automatic basis. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) on Black Money was constituted in May 2014. The SIT is actively monitoring cases involving substantial black money\/undisclosed income, particularly black money stashed abroad. The government has enacted a comprehensive and a more stringent new law – Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 that came into force from 01.07.2015. This law includes the offence of willful attempt to evade tax etc. in relation to undisclosed foreign income\/assets as a Scheduled Offence under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA). The Union government gave a one-time compliance window of 3 months for providing an opportunity to taxpayers to make declarations of their undisclosed foreign assets before they were subjected to more stringent provisions of the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015. As many as 648 declarants filed declarations upto 30.09.2015, which was the last date of filing such declarations, disclosing undisclosed foreign assets worth Rs.4,164 crores. An amount of about Rs.2,476 crore was collected as tax and penalty in such cases.