Millennium Post

CBI unearths 393 shell companies that diverted `2,900 crore in 3 years

A complex web of 393 shell companies used for allegedly diverting funds unscrupulously to the tune of Rs 2900 crore has been unearthed by the CBI during its probe into such cases over the last three years.

CBI sources said the shell companies were allegedly being used by the accused to divert loan funds meant for specified purposes, creating fake invoices, and "round-tripping" of funds to evade taxes and generate black money.

Round-tripping is sending money abroad to tax havens in the guise of payments for fake imports through shell companies and bringing back that money showing it as foreign investment.

The findings of the CBI are just a tip of the iceberg as these are only those cases where the agency has been able to find legally-tenable evidence of money trail, cheating and diversion of funds to cheat the banks, said the sources not willing to the named.

The murky activities have been exposed during the CBI probe into various loan fraud cases involving 28 public sector banks and one private bank, the sources said.

Besides this, the agency is probing about 200 cases involving funds of at least Rs 30,000 crore, the sources said.

The CBI is prosecuting these companies for corruption and scheduled offences associated with it.

In addition, it will also refer these cases to other investigating agencies for action under other laws like Companies Act, Prevention of Money Laundering Act, Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act and the Income Tax Act etc, the sources added.

The agency has not only "exposed" these shell companies but also gathered enough material which would "plug" the possibility of them being used for any further operation, the sources claimed.

The sources said it is likely that these shell companies have been used to abet financial crimes by other offenders too which will be probed by other agencies.

The companies are spread across the country as also the 'tax-haven' countries facilitating transfer of black money which makes the investigation even more difficult, they said.

In a recent case, the agency has found that a dental college existed only on paper while a bank was told that the construction was completed and loan funds were diverted for purposes other than for which these were issued.

In many cases, the CBI found that companies have peons, drivers, sanitation workers, personal staff, cooks etc as the directors of the shell companies created by the masterminds who divert funds using them, the sources said.

Recently, the government expressed concern over the working of shell companies in the country.

Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia had said that out of 15 lakh companies registered in India, nine lakh are not filing any returns and some among them may be acting as shell companies.
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