New Delhi, September 16, 2017

The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act was notified for implementation on November 1, 2016.

The tax department has attached 381 properties across the country, worth over Rs 1300 crore in the first nine months since the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act was notified for implementation on November 1, last year.

Benami properties are those that are held by an owner through proxies.

Data shows that the maximum benami transactions detected and under probe are in Gujarat, followed by Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa.

When it comes valuation of properties, West Bengal tops the list, where 28 properties worth Rs 478.87 have been attached. In Mumbai, 58 properties worth Rs 336.87 crore have been attached, taking the total value of attachments to Rs 1353.38 crore.

The region leading with maximum property attachments are Tamil Nadu followed by Rajasthan and Mumbai. Of the 381 attachments, 66 have been in Tamil Nadu, 62 in Rajasthan and 58 in Mumbai.

These numbers are significant since the Benami Act was first notified in 1988. But till the enforcement was enhanced with more teeth in November 2016, there wasn’t a single attachment.

“These figures are in keeping with the tax department’s and government’s focus on fighting corruption and weeding out black money,” said a top officer in the central bureau of direct taxes (CBDT). The officer did not wish to be quoted.

There are 627 more cases that are under investigation by the tax department.

Government data shows that the enforcement against benami assets is gaining momentum. Till July 286 attachments were done but by the end of August the number has surged to 381.

Recently, the tax department passed the final orders for attaching assets of RJD chief Lalu Yadav’s daughter Misa Bharti. NCP leader Chhagan Bhujpal’s benami assets and action against them had also hit headlines in the past few months. But tax officers say that the 381 cases so far include people from all professions, not only politicians.

Creation of separate teams to dredge-out benami properties have led to better enforcement of the Act, said senior tax officials. These teams are called benami prohibition units (BPU) and there are 24 such teams across the country. Each team has at least five members.

“We will set up more BPUs in the future. To ensure better action against benami properties, tax authorities have been asked to share all relevant information with BPUs, as they scan income tax related information of people,” said another tax officer who did not wish to be named.

Sources said that officers of other agencies such as CBI, enforcement directorate, financial intelligence unit and central bureau excise and customs have also been sensitized for timely sharing of information for crackdown on benami properties.

[The Hindustan Times]