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Use loot to set up a karuna-virus fund

Switzerland has been a haven for hiding wealth for centuries, at least since the 18th century. In 1934, the Swiss banking secrecy was codified through passing its Federal Act on Banks and Savings Banks.

Raja Murthy | New Delhi |

We are at war – a war against a coronavirus. Fighting this war needs a massive war chest, including funds retrieved from a dirtier virus: the virus of mega corruption centred in banks of Switzerland. Other tax havens too such as Cayman Islands hide money for these doomed billionaires and millionaires infected with the cursed ‘greed’ virus.

But start with Switzerland, the world’s biggest ‘fence’ (a crook who buys stolen goods from crooks) for dirty money. Switzerland has been a haven for hiding wealth for centuries, at least since the 18th century. In 1934, the Swiss banking secrecy was codified through passing its Federal Act on Banks and Savings Banks.

Since then Swiss banks hid more wealth for Europeans including Nazi leaders like Luftwaffe chief Herman Goering who used a Zurich bank to park his loot during the Second World War. For too long, Swiss banks have been allowed to get away as caves of loot to thieves like in the tale from Arabian nights.

In this coronavirus nightmare, time for the law enforcement Ali Baba to call out ‘Open Sesame’ to the Swiss bank vaults of black money. In true paradox of human nature, Switzerland is also home to the Red Cross, the largest humanitarian network of compassionate service of material needs to a suffering world.

The war against suffering from the coronavirus needs the ‘karunavirus’ – a virus of ‘karuna’ (compassion) that needs to spread. The strange truth about this ‘karuna-virus’ of compassion is that by helping others we help ourselves. Think of welfare of others – our anxieties, fears subside. Likewise, the more we hoard the more insecure we become.

More sharing and giving, stronger we become. Such is the law of nature. The world needs the ‘karunavirus’ – urgently. With 14,746 dead (as of Mar 23, 07:58 GMT), many countries in a lockdown, the global economy in disturbing turmoil, we need governmental help more than ever. And governments need the Swiss bank loot.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked for unusual measures to deal with this unusual Coronavirus crisis. Here is one: Use the ‘karuna’ virus to get back loot stashed in more than 280 banks in Switzerland. Enforce the law. Simultaneously give hoarders the option of turning a substantial percentage of their black money into a ‘karuna’ fund to fight the coronavirus.

The first beneficiaries of this Karuna Fund will be those hoarders themselves. By helping others they help themselves. They can escape the tax men but not the law of cause and effect. The luckier tax dodgers were caught, jailed or mended their ways. Others are doomed to pay a higher price. So make the choice. Surrender the loot to help a world in crisis. Or suffer. For suffering there is, for those who hoard.

No peace of mind, the shadow of insecurity and fear haunting them night and day. Pleasures of the world with their ill-gotten gains are mere layers of ash of ignorance covering a hellfire of suffering within. The wise among the wealthy experience this truth. A former Myanmar-born millionaire turned Vipassana meditation teacher Sayagyi U Goenka (1924 – 2013) realized that reality.

“The wealth of the community tends to accumulate with the rulers and wealthy men,” he said. “If this wealth remains with them, it begins to rot and makes the whole community unhealthy”. The novel-coronavirus demolished the unhealthy delusion that wealth is everything, in the latest reminder of the fragility of life.

The only certainty is uncertainty and the only permanence is impermanence. The wiser wealthy realize how the best investment is using their wealth to serve others. “A wise donor considered his wealth as the wealth of the community,” Sayagyi U Goenka said of the ancient Indian tradition of kings and nobles donating wealth.

“This wise policy of equitable distribution of wealth preserved the equilibrium of social prosperity and prevented it from becoming an unbalanced destructive force.” As the destructive forces of Covid-19 unravel, use the Rs 300 lakh crores (US$ 1.5 trillon) of black money hidden as Swiss bank loot. Convert that ill-gotten wealth into a ‘Karuna Virus’ Fund to fight the coronavirus.

(The writer is a senior, Mumbai-based journalist)