With demonetisation drive done an dusted and numerous raids by authorities leading to seizures of thousands of crores in illegal wealth, the Income-Tax department has launched a new crackdown and this time it is on benami properties – something that many had feared would happen once the worst effects of the note ban have blown over. The Narendra Modi led NDA government has been targeting black money holders and their properties in order to fulfill the promise the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had made during the run-up to the general elections 2014.
Income-Tax dept attached 42 properties during the last few days, issued 87 notices under prohibition of Benami property transaction Act, IT sources revealed. They added that this is the first action of it’s kind in the wake of demonetisation.
The department also revealed that bank deposits worth crores has been confiscated under the newly enforced Benami Transactions Act which attracts a heavy penalty and rigorous jail term of a maximum 7 years.
The i-T dept had carried out public advertisements and had warned people against depositing their unaccounted old currency in someone else’s bank account saying such an act would attract criminal charges under the Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988, applicable on both movable and immovable property, that has been enforced from November 1, 2016.
Officials, after going through a report, have said, that numerous summons under the Benami Transactions Act have been issued and it is in the process of issuing more. The decision, they said, to slap the stringent provisions of the Benami Transactions Act was taken after analysing serious cases where the illegalities were blatant and suspect cash was deposited in either benami accounts or Jan Dhan or dormant accounts.
The crackdown stems from the November 8 note ban order in the wake of which the I-T dept had started an operation to identify suspect bank accounts where huge cash deposits have been. The govt had then warned the public not to misuse the Jan Dhan accounts to launder black money. Those who did, now face the prospect of being prosecuted. Under the Act, the department can confiscate and prosecute both the depositor and the person whose illegal money has “adjusted” in their account.
An official told PTI, “Such an arrangement where a person deposits old currency of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 in the bank account of another person with an understanding that the account holder shall return his money in new currency, the transaction shall be regarded as benami transaction under the said Act.
He added, “The person who deposits old currency in the bank account shall be treated as beneficial owner and the person in whose bank account the old currency has been deposited shall be categorised under this law as a benamidar,” a senior official had explained earlier.