The Income Tax Department on Thursday that it had attached more than 900 benami properties including plots of bank deposits. The value of the attached properties is over Rs 3,500 crore including immovable properties worth over Rs 2,900 crore. The department is committed to continuing its concerted drive against black money and action against benami transactions will continue to be intensified the Ministry in a statement.
The government is on a drive to crack down on benami properties or assets held by proxies, invoking the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act the Benami Act that came into force on 1 November 2016. On 30 November Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government will broaden the scope of Aadhaar the 12-digit unique identification number to crack down on benami properties.
The department had set up 24 dedicated Benami Prohibition Units under its investigation directorates across India in May 2017 to ensure swift action in respect of benami properties. Due to intensive efforts were undertaken by the department, the provisional attachment has been made in more than 900 cases of properties under the Act. These include plots of land, flats, shops, jewelry, vehicles, deposits in bank accounts, fixed deposits, etc.
The Act defines a transaction as benami when the property is held by one person but has been provided or paid for by another person. The new law which has replaced the Benami Transactions Act of 1988 states that the offender will have to serve at least one year of rigorous imprisonment that may go up to seven years and the fine to be paid may extend up to 25% of the market value of the property.
In one case, the department said a real estate firm acquired about 50 acres of land valued at more than Rs 110 crore using the names of people who couldn’t have afforded it as proxies. Officials corroborated this with the sellers and brokers. In another case, two persons were found to have deposited demonetized currency in multiple bank accounts in the names of their employees and associates which they intended to ultimately recoup.