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Friday 10 July 2020

13 banks tell Modi govt how cash hoarders hid and used part of demonetised cash

New Delhi: In what appears a major breakthrough in its fight against black money and shell companies, the Narendra Modi government has received from 13 banks vital information on the bank account operations and post-demonetisation transactions of some of the 2,09,032 suspicious companies that had been struck off the Registrar of Companies earlier this year.

After being struck off, operations of the bank accounts of these 2,09,032 suspicious companies had been restricted from discharging their liabilities.

The 13 banks have submitted their first instalment of data, which pertains to merely about 5,800 companies (out of more than 2,00,000 that were struck off) involving 13,140 accounts. This in itself is a revealing figure. A few of the companies have been found to have more than 100 accounts to their names. The highest grosser among these is a company having 2,134 accounts, followed by others having accounts in the range of 900, 300 etc.

The data pertaining to the pre-demonetisation account balances and transactions conducted from the accounts of these companies during the demonetisation period is even more startling.

After separating the loan accounts, these companies had a meagre balance of Rs 22.05 crore to their credit on 8 November 2016. However, from the next day onwards, which is after the announcement of demonetisation, till the date of their being struck off, these companies have altogether deposited a huge amount of Rs. 4,573.87 crore in their accounts and withdrawn an equally large amount of Rs 4,552 crore. With loan accounts, there was a negative opening balance of Rs 80.79 crore.

Disturbing facts have been identified about companies having multiple accounts with minuscule or negative balance as on 8 November 2016, which then deposited and withdrew amounts running in several crore rupees from these accounts. The accounts were thereafter again left as dormant accounts with paltry balance.

The dubious companies carried out this exercise of swindling post-demonetization until they were struck off the register. In some cases, certain companies were more adventurous, depositing and withdrawing money even after being struck off! For example, in a bank, 429 companies with zero balance each as on 8 November 2016, deposited and withdrew over Rs 11 crore and left again with a cumulative balance of just Rs 42,000 as at the date of freezing.

Similarly, in the case of another bank, more than 3,000 such companies, most with multiple accounts, have been located. From having a cumulative balance of about Rs 13 crore as on 8 November 2016, these companies went on to deposit and withdraw about Rs 3,800 crore, leaving a negative cumulative balance of almost Rs 200 crore at the time of freezing of their accounts.

The data make just about 2.5% of the total number of suspected companies that have been struck off by the Union government. The humongous money game played by these companies may well be the tip of an iceberg of ill-gotten wealth and black money. And these are unlikely to be the only companies that took recourse to such money-laundering.

The Modi government has asked the investigative agencies to complete the necessary probes in a time-bound manner.

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