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PM Modi gets Swiss pledge on tackling tax dodgers

GENEVA (Reuters) - Switzerland promised on Monday to work with Indian authorities to tackle tax dodgers who stash money in Swiss bank accounts to avoid Indian taxes.

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After talks in Geneva with Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann and round-table discussions with Swiss businessmen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the two countries had agreed to make combatting tax evasion and “black money” a shared priority.

“We discussed the need for an early and expeditious exchange of information to bring to justice the tax offenders. An early start to negotiations on the Agreement on Automatic Exchange of Information would be important in this respect,” he said, referring to a portal supported by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Modi promised in his 2014 election campaign to recover billions of dollars sent to tax havens abroad to avoid income tax, now about 30 percent in India.

Schneider-Ammann said no figure had been put on the amount of “black money” to be recovered. Talks would begin later this month, he said.

Modi said Switzerland had also agreed to support its bid for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which it applied to join last month, having won a waiver in 2008 that accorded it the right to trade in commercial nuclear technology.

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New Delhi’s bid for full membership of the 48-nation club, if granted, would tip the balance of power in South Asia against its arch-rival Pakistan, whose own application has been backed by China despite questions over its proliferation record.

Modi tacked on Switzerland and Mexico as extra stops on a five-country tour to seek their support on joining the NSG. He left Switzerland for Washington, where U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to offer his backing also.

Both Switzerland and Mexico have been viewed as sceptical about India’s bid for nuclear legitimacy. They are among countries concerned that India has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a step that would require New Delhi to give up its nuclear arsenal.

The nuclear club holds its annual meeting later this month.

Reporting by Tom Miles; Additonal reporting by Douglas Busvine in New Delhi; Editing by Louise Ireland