IT deptt attaches benami properties worth over Rs 3,500 cr

IT deptt attaches benami properties worth over Rs 3,500 cr

IT deptt attaches benami properties worth over Rs 3,500 cr

Stepping up action against fake ownership of assets and transactions made in fictitious names, the Income Tax Department has attached benami properties worth more than Rs 3,500 crore in 900-plus cases.

These attachments include plots of land, flats, shops, jewellery, vehicles, deposits in bank accounts and fixed deposits, the department said, adding the value of immovable properties seized is more than Rs 2,900 crore.

The seizures were carried out after Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act came into force from November 1, 2016. The Act defines benami as 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.

The I-T department has released the seizure information close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi hinting at a crackdown on benami properties as the next step in his attempt to dig out black money.

"The time has come to return to the poor what has been robbed of them.... I am going to create a situation where those involved would not be able to reclaim their benami assets," Modi had said at an election rally on November 8 last, the first anniversary of demonetisation.

"Due to intensive efforts undertaken by the Income Tax department, provisional attachment has been made in more than 900 cases. In five cases, the provisional attachments of benami properties, amounting to more than Rs 150 crore, have been confirmed by the adjudicating authority," the I-T department said in a statement.

It said in one such case, it was established 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 of no means as benamidars. This was corroborated from the sellers of the land as well as the brokers involved.

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. The total amount attempted to be remitted to the beneficial owners was about Rs 39 crore. In yet another case, a cash amount of Rs 1.11 crore was intercepted from a vehicle with a person who denied the ownership of this cash. Subsequently, no one claimed ownership of this cash and it was held to be benami property by the adjudicating authority.

The I-T department had on Tuesday warned people to keep away from benami transactions, cautioning that violations under the newly enacted law invites criminal prosecution and rigorous imprisonment up to seven years. The department put out its alert in a public advertisement published in leading national dailies.

The Act provides for provisional attachment and subsequent confiscation of benami properties, both movable and 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 seven years and fine of up to 25% of the fair market value of the property.

In May, the department had set up 24 dedicated Benami Prohibition Units (BPUs) under its Investigation Directorates all over the country to ensure swift action in respect of benami properties.

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