In the days after announcing the sudden ban on high-value currency notes in November 2016, PM Modi had waved the brand-new law against benami properties, or proxy-owned properties, and declared these assets were next on his government’s radar.
Nearly 14 months later, the income tax department, which had set up 24 benami prohibition teams, suggested it had made some progress.
Under this law, people found guilty of selling or buying such properties could be sentenced to seven years in jail and a fine that could be up to 25% of the fair market value of the property.
The benami law also empowered tax officials to attach properties that were suspected to be proxy-owned, a measure that has to be confirmed by senior officials if the property is retained for more than 90 days.
A finance ministry statement said the properties seized by the tax department included plots of land, flats, shops, jewellery, vehicles, deposits in bank accounts, fixed deposits.
In one case detected by the tax officials, the statement said a real estate company acquired about 50 acres of land valued at over Rs 110 crore in some people who did not have the money to make the purchase.
In another case, two owners of a firm deposited 39 crores in demonetised currency in the names of their employees and associates who had to channel the funds back to them. In the third instance, when officials found 1.11 crores cash in a vehicle, a person in the vehicle denied that the money was his.