The tax department has provisionally attached more than 900 benami properties including flats, shops, jewellery and vehicles worth over Rs 3,500 crore, including immovable properties of more than Rs 2,900 crore, the Income Tax Department said in a statement on Thursday.
The tax department said that the provisional attachments of benami properties, amounting to more than Rs 150 crore have been confirmed by the Adjudicating Authority in five cases. Giving details of one of these cases, the tax department said that a real estate company had acquired about 50 acres of land, valued at more than Rs 110 crore, using the “names of certain persons as benamidars”. In another case, post demonetisation, two assessees were found depositing demonetised currency into multiple bank accounts in the names of their employees, associates etc. to be ultimately remitted to their bank accounts, with the total remitted amount estimated to be about Rs 39 crore, it said.
In another case, an amount of Rs 1.11 crore was intercepted from a person who denied the ownership of the cash and since no one claimed ownership subsequently, it was held to be benami property by the adjudicating authority, the statement said.
The tax department has stepped up action under the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amended Act, 2016, which came into force from November 1, 2016. “The department is committed to continue its concerted drive against black money and action against benami transactions will continue to be intensified,” the statement added.
The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amended Act, 2016, provides for provisional attachment and subsequent confiscation of benami properties, whether movable or immovable. It also allows for prosecution of the beneficial owner, the benamidar and the abettor to benami transactions, which may result in rigorous imprisonment up to 7 years and a fine of up to 25 per cent of fair market value of the property.
The department had set up 24 dedicated Benami Prohibition Units under its Investigation Directorates all over India in May, 2017 to ensure swift action in respect of Benami properties.
Benami literally means ‘without a name’. An asset without a legal owner or a fictitious owner is called benami. The original Benami Act was introduced in 1988 for prevention of black money and was amended in 2016 to prohibit benami transactions and provides for confiscating benami properties.
The Benami Act defines a benami transaction as a transaction where a property is held by or transferred to a person, but has been provided for or paid by another person. The 2016 Bill amended this definition to add other transactions which qualify as benami. It includes properties where the transaction is made in a fictitious name, or the owner denies knowledge of the ownership of the property, or the person providing the consideration for the property is not traceable.
In November 2017, the tax department had said that assets worth Rs 1,833 crore had been attached by the I-T department till October 2017, for which it had issued over 517 notices and made 541 attachments.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November 2017 had promised a “benami sampatti ka toofan” soon, while talking about the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amended Act, 2016, brought by his government, during a campaign rally in Himachal Pradesh.