Steps taken by government in tackling the shell Companies



What are the essential steps taken by government in tackling the shell Companies? (250 words)

A ‘Task Force on Shell Companies’ under  the Ministry of Corporate Affairs was constituted in, 2017 for effectively tackling the malpractices by shell companies/ponzy companies/khoka companies in a comprehensive manner adopting whole of the government approach.

Brief highlights of actions taken against shell companies in recent past include the following:

(i) With a view to have consolidated relevant information at one place and based upon inputs from all law enforcement agencies, the Serious Fraud Investigation Office under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has undertaken the exercise of preparing comprehensive digital database of shell companies and their associates that were identified by various law enforcement agencies.

(ii) During last three financial years (2013-14 to 2015-16), investigations by the Income-tax Department have led to detection of more than 1155 shell companies/entities which were used as conduits by over 22,000 beneficiaries. The amount involved in non-genuine transactions of such beneficiaries was more than Rs 13,300 crore.

 Criminal Prosecution complaints have been filed by the Income-tax Department against 47 persons. Action against such companies, the beneficiaries of non-genuine transactions and other persons associated therewith under the Direct Taxes law is a continuous process and includes searches, surveys, enquiries, assessment of income, levy of taxes, penalties, etc. and filing of prosecution complaints in criminal courts, wherever applicable.

(iii) Enforcement Directorate conducted nationwide searched in 16 states on 01.04.2017 in respect of shell companies and related professionals who were behind the creation and operation of these Companies.

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(iv) The CBI has registered 30 cases against 201 shell companies during the last 3 years viz. 2014, 2015, 2016 and the current year as on 28.2.2017.

(v) FIU-India Out of these, charge-sheets have been filed in 17 cases.

(vi)  Ministry of Corporate Affairs has removed 1,62,618 Companies from the Register of Companies by following the due process under the Companies Act, 2013.

 Further, the exercise of identification of the directors of the companies defaulting in filing of Financial Statements or Annual Returns for continuous period of three financial years has been undertaken

(vii) FIU-India has also alerted its Reporting Entities on shell companies for enhanced due diligence.

Mechanism for sharing of information between various law enforcement agencies is already in place under the Regional Economic Intelligence Council (REIC) and Central Economic Intelligence Bureau (CEIB) forums.

 Further, with a view to streamline and strengthen the information sharing mechanism, a new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on sharing of information between various law enforcement agencies has been agreed to under the aegis of the Task Force. Disclosure of information in respect of specific persons, however, is prohibited except as provided under section 138 of the Income-tax Act, 1961.

The Government had requested the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for freezing of accounts of the defaulting companies who have long exceeded the stipulated time limit, for filing of Financials Statements and returns, under the Companies Act.

The RBI has informed that, at present, it has no powers to freeze such accounts. Moreover, freezing orders issued by the Government as per the provisions of the relevant statutes such as Unlawful Activities Prevention Act or Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, are communicated by the RBI to the banks.

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