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Noose Tightens on Benami Property Act Violators

New Delhi: The tax department today warned that those who undertake Benami transactions would invite Rigorous Imprisonment (RI) of up to 7 years and such violators would also stand to be charged under the normal I-T Act.

In advertisements issued in leading national dailies today, the Income Tax department stated: “Do not enter into benami transactions” as the Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988, is “now in action” from November 1, 2016.

“Black money is a crime against humanity. We urge every conscientious citizen to help the government in eradicating it,” it said. The department also spelled out some salient features of the new Act: “Benamidar (in whose name benami property is standing), beneficiary (who actually paid consideration) and persons who abet and induce benami transactions are prosecutable and may get RI up to 7 years besides being liable to pay fine up to 25 per cent of fair market value of benami property.

“It added that” persons who furnish false information to authorities under the Benami Act are prosecutable and may be imprisoned up to 5 years besides being liable to pay fine up to 10 per cent of fair market value of benami property.”The department made it clear that the benami property “may be attached and confiscated by the government” and that these actions are in “addition to actions under other laws such as Income Act, 1961.

“The department, since the enactment of the law last year, has registered over 230 cases and attached assets worth Rs 55 crore nationwide, which also coincided with the action against black money after demonetisation. “A total of 235 cases and instances have been registered under the said Act by the department till mid-February this year.

Show cause notices for attachment have been issued in 140 cases where benami assets worth Rs 200 crore are involved. “In 124 cases, benami assets worth more than Rs 55 crore have been provisionally attached till now,” an I-T report, accessed by PTI, had said. The attached assets, officials had said, include deposits in bank accounts, agricultural and other land, flats and jewellery, among others.

After demonetisation on November 8 last year, the I-T department had carried out public advertisements and had warned people against depositing their unaccounted old currency in someone else’s bank account. The I-T department is the nodal department to enforce the said Act in the country.The taxman had initiated a nationwide operation to identify suspect bank accounts where huge cash deposits have been made post-November 8 when the government demonetised the Rs 500/1000 currency notes.