On 28 December 2009, Froriep Renggli, a Zurich-based law firm, acting on behalf of unnamed ‘clients’ who are customers of the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) dashed off letters to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Enforcement Directorate, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) about unauthorised trades running into billions of US dollars, in the accounts of their ‘clients’. More important, it alleges “the role/active connivance of the top management of UBS” in routing trades in Reliance Energy Limited (REL) and Reliance National Resources Limited (RNRL) through its clients’ accounts.
Over the years, even the biggest financial scandals are buried quietly. But for the Opposition, which claims to be agitated at the Indian government’s inaction in unearthing black money stashed in Swiss banks, there couldn’t be a better revelation of the modus operandi. It is common knowledge that Indians have the biggest stash of money in Swiss banks—in fact, enough to bridge our fiscal deficit with some to spare. The non-transparent capital market operations of many foreign institutional investors (FIIs) are also well known. So it is no surprise that UBS, the biggest of them, keeps running into trouble with the Indian regulator. In 2004, UBS was barred by SEBI for refusing to share information about a sub-account in connection with an investigation into market manipulation. It won in appeal, but ultimately settled the controversial case by paying up Rs50 lakh under a consent application.