The Income Tax (I-T) Department, on August 11, 2019, said it has attached benami assets worth Rs 300 crores, including a bungalow in a posh Delhi locality and USD 40 million funds brought from a Mauritius-based entity, in connection with its probe against businessman Ratul Puri, nephew of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath and his father. It said a provisional order of attachment against Puri had been issued under section 24(3) of the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988.
The I-T Department, in July 2019, similarly attached Rs 254 crores worth of ‘benami’ equity of Puri, which he is stated to have allegedly received from a suspect in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam case, via shell companies. Puri, chairman of Hindustan Powerprojects Pvt (HPP) Ltd, is also being probed by the Enforcement Directorate, in the Rs 3,600-crore VVIP chopper probe case and the central agency had recently issued a non-bailable warrant against him.
The attached bungalow, in the heart of the Lutyens Zone, is located at 27A, APJ Abdul Kalam Road (formerly Aurangzeb Road). “The immovable property at APJ Abdul Kalam Road was purchased, utilising a foreign direct investment of USD 3 million from a British Virgin Islands-based shell company, Bronson Financial Inc, on a long-term basis, for the purpose of software development in 2002,” the Department said. “Instead, entire FDI was diverted for the acquisition of a house, for use by promoters Ratul Puri and his family. The market value of this property is estimated to be more than Rs 300 crores,” it said.
The second asset to be attached under the latest order, was an FDI amount of USD 40 million that was kept in a company, Cobol Technologies Private Limited and is claimed to have been infused from a Mauritius-based firm, Pangea Emerging Infrastructure Fund Ltd, it said. The Department alleged that its probe found that this fund was a ‘benami’ of Ratul Puri and its shares were held by Rajiv Saxena, a Dubai-based operator, who is an accused in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case.
The Department had conducted raids on Ratul and his father Deepak Puri’s companies and businesses, in April 2019, during which the documents of alleged illegal transactions were seized. It had then said in a statement that a tax evasion of Rs 1,350 crores was detected, after raids on Ratul Puri’s firm HPP. The statement issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxation (CBDT) had said the group (HPP) was operating through a maze of shell companies and indulged in bogus billings, over-invoicing of imports and round-tripping of funds.
Benami assets worth Rs 6,900 crores confiscated so far: I-T Department
The Income-Tax Department has said that it has attached and confiscated properties worth more than Rs 6,900 crores so far, as part of its drive against benami properties
January 29, 2019: The Income-Tax (I-T) Department has confiscated assets worth Rs 6,900 crores till now, as part of its action under the anti-benami transactions law, the agency said in a public advertisement on January 29, 2019. The message issued in leading dailies, said people who ‘abet and induce’ benami transactions, benamidar (in whose name the benami property is standing) and beneficiaries (who pay money consideration) are prosecutable and may face rigorous imprisonment of up to seven years, besides being liable to pay fine of up to 25 per cent of the fair market value of benami property.
“The Income-Tax Department has already attached and confiscated benami properties worth more than Rs 6,900 crores,” the message said. The message added that people who furnish false information to authorities under the law (Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 2016) are prosecutable and may be imprisoned up to five years, besides being liable to pay fine up to 10 per cent of the fair market value of the benami property.
“We urge every conscientious citizen to help the government in eradicating it,” the message added. “Do not enter into benami transactions. It’s illegal and punishable,” the message said and added that action under the new law will be in addition to the I-T Act, 1961.
Cabinet approves Adjudicating Authority, for speedy disposal of benami cases
The government has approved the setting up of the Appellate Tribunal and Adjudicating Authority, for the speedy disposal of cases related to benami transactions
October 24, 2018: The union cabinet chaired by prime minister Narendra Modi, on October 24, 2018, approved the setting up of the Appellate Tribunal and Adjudicating Authority, for speedy disposal of cases under the Benami Transactions law, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, at a press briefing. Earlier this month, the government had notified Sessions Courts in 34 states and union territories, which will act as special courts for trial of offences under the benami transaction law.
Benami transaction refers to transactions made in a fictitious name, or transactions where the owner is not aware of the ownership of the property, or the person paying for the property is not traceable.
As per an official release, the Adjudicating Authority and Appellate Tribunal will be based in the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCTD). Benches of the Adjudicating Authority may sit in Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai and the necessary notification in this regard, will be issued after consultation with the chairperson of the proposed Adjudicating Authority.
“The approval will result in effective and better administration of cases referred to the Adjudicating Authority and speedy disposal of appeals filed against the order of the Adjudicating Authority before the Appellate Tribunal,” the release said. The appointment of the Adjudicating Authority, it added, would provide first stage review of administrative action under the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act (PBPT) Act.
Establishment of the proposed Appellate Tribunal, would provide an appellate mechanism for the order passed by the Adjudicating Authority under the PBPT Act. The rules and all the provisions of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, came into force on November 1, 2016. After coming into effect, the existing Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988, was renamed as the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988.