I-T unearths 400 benami deals, attaches Rs 600-crore properties

The Income Tax Department has identified over 400 benami transactions and attached properties worth Rs600 crore in about 240 cases since the enactment of the Benami Properties Act, the department stated on Wednesday.

The department, which initiated action under the new Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016 from 1 November last year, last week also set up 24 dedicated Benami Prohibition Units (BPUs) across the country.

Benami property includes movable or immovable, tangible or intangible, corporeal or incorporeal property which is in name of someone other than the beneficial owner. The law provides for a maximum punishment of seven years in jail and a fine for holders of such property.

"The Income-tax Directorates of Investigation have identified more than 400 benami transactions up to May 23, 2017. These include deposits in bank accounts, plots of land, flat and jewellery," said an official release.

Provisional attachment of properties under the law has been done in more than 240 cases. The market value of properties under attachment is more than Rs 600 crore, it said.

"Immovable properties have been attached in 40 cases with total value of more than Rs 530 crore in Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh," the tax department said.

It has also undertaken searches on 10 "senior government officials" during the past one month, in line with its policy to "unearth black money earned through corrupt practices and introduce accountability and probity in public life".

Giving details of the department's operations the release said, in one case in Jabalpur, the benamidar, a driver, was found to be owner of land worth Rs7.7 crore. The beneficial owner is a Madhya Pradesh based listed company, his employer.

In Mumbai a professional was found to be holding several immovable properties in the name of shell companies which exist only on paper.

In another case, in Sanganer, Rajasthan, a jeweller was found to be beneficial owner of nine immovable properties in the name of his former employee, a man of no means. Certain properties purchased through shell companies have also been attached by the department in Kolkata, it added.

The crackdown on all forms of illicit wealth is being spearheaded by the department to ensure that any economic misdeed is immediately identified and actions as per law follow, the release added.

The 24 dedicated units are under the overall supervision of the Principal Directors of Investigation in the Income-tax Department to enable swift action and follow up, especially in cases where criminality has been detected.