NEW DELHI: The government said about 6,000 companies had been caught in what looked like attempts to launder money in the wake of demonetisation, calling it the “tip of the iceberg,” making it clear that more such wrongdoing would soon be unearthed. “This data is only 2.5% of the total number of suspect companies that have been struck off by the government,” the corporate affairs ministry said in a press release.
The companies, which have had their registration cancelled, had a total balance of Rs 22 crore on November 8 last year, the day demonetisation was announced.
They subsequently deposited Rs 4,573 crore and withdrew Rs 4,552 crore. The government is investigating about 209,000 companies in all for similar transactions. Thirteen banks shared information with the government on 13,140 accounts held by the 5,820 companies, with the most startling details coming from IDBI Bank, Bank of Baroda and Canara Bank.
Details accessed by ET show some companies managed to deposit nearly Rs 144 crore and withdraw around Rs 171crore from their bank accounts even after being struck off the books of the Registrar of Companies (RoC).
“The huge money game played by these companies may well be the tip of the iceberg of corruption, black money and black deeds of these and many more of their brethren,” the government said.
“This exercise of swindling the authorities was carried out post demonetisation till the companies were struck off. In some cases, certain companies have gone more adventurous and made deposits and withdrawals even after being struck off.”
IDBI Bank held a major chunk of the accounts. They belonged to 3,330 companies, which had a cumulative balance of Rs 13.29 crore on November 8.
They deposited Rs 3,792 crore in their accounts after demonetisation, then withdrew Rs 3,794 crore. Another 159 companies had no money in their accounts on November 8. They deposited Rs 249 crore and withdrew Rs 246 crore.
At Canara Bank, 429 companies with a zero balance on November 8 deposited and withdrew Rs 11 crore and were left with a cumulative balance of just Rs 42,000 when frozen.
One of these deposited nearly Rs 10 crore and withdrew almost the same account, leaving just Rs 55 as balance, according to information provided by the government.
At Bank of Baroda, 1,701 companies held as many as 8,633 accounts. One was found to be holding as many as 2,134 accounts.
Another had a loan of Rs 1 crore from the same bank but deposited Rs 2.65 crore after demonetisation and withdrew Rs 2.68 crore till being struck off, leaving a negative balance of Rs 1.03 crore when the account was frozen. “These findings may be of interest to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to see how this happened in case of defaulting companies and struck-off companies,” a senior government official told ET.
“This also highlights the need for Ministry of Corporate Affairs and RoC to conduct inquiries into the affairs of these companies, so too income tax and other regulatory agencies.”
Investigative agencies have been asked to complete inquiries in a time-bound manner. “This is undoubtedly a major breakthrough in the fight against black money and shell companies,” the government said.
Officials said the corporate affairs ministry had asked the Indian Banks’ Association to get the information from members on the operations of 209,000 companies struck off the register but the 13 banks had directly shared the information individually with the government.
Four banks — Qatar National Bank, Doha Bank, Emirates NBD Bank and Punjab Gramin Bank –have stated that they didn’t have any accounts of the companies. Some companies were found to be having multiple accounts in other banks.
At Bank of Baroda one company had 915 accounts, while another had 313.
A few others had more than a hundred accounts each.