Money laundering through ‘charitable donations’: I-T dept asks churches to provide balance details

I-T officials said this was a precautionary measure.

Written by Arshad Ali | Updated: November 30, 2016 12:11 pm
income tax department, it department, demonitisation notes, demonitisation currency, rs 500 ban, rs 1000 ban, 1000 demonitisation, 500 demonitisation, business news Income Tax Department Building. (Express photo by Vasant Prabhu)

In order to keep a tab on conversion of black money into white through donations in light of demonetisation, the income tax department has sent letters to churches across the state, seeking their cash balances as on March 31 (end of the financial year) and November 8 (the day the move was announced).

I-T officials said this was a precautionary measure. “There is always a possibility that people would try to take this route to convert their black money into white. Not just the cash balance, even the number of higher denomination notes involved should be taken into account to nip any such possibility in the bud,” said a senior I-T official.

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Father Moloy D’ Costa, a senior official of the Archdiocese of Calcutta and the diocesan inspector of schools, confirmed he had received the letter. “Although the letter was dated November 15, we received it on November 18. We had been asked to submit it by November 18, but since we had received the letter on November 18 itself, it was not possible to do so. We submitted it after some delay,” he told The Indian Express.

Father D’ Costa further said that what also contributed to the delay was that the churches were spread across districts such as Kolkata, Hooghly, Howrah, East and West Midnapore and North-24 Parganas. “Collating information from those churches caused the delay,” he added.

Other religious organisations too are on the alert. “The day the decision of demonetisation was taken, we had put up notice at our premises that no one should put illegal denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 into the donation boxes.

“We kept checking the boxes at regular intervals as well,” said Shantanu Maharaj of Ramkrishna Mission, Belur Math. He added that a few days after the announcement, an unidentified person dumped Rs 60 lakh in denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 at the Shillong Centre of Ramkrishna Mission, all of which was handed over to the police.

Sardar Sukhdev Singh, general secretary of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha gurudwara in Bhawanipore, said they had a tough time coping with the situation because a few days after the demonetisation announcement, they had conducted a three-day celebration of the birth of Guru Nanak, on November 12, 13 and 14.