ISLAMABAD: An inquiry has been initiated by the Federal Board of Revenue to verify benami transactions in five sugar mills, a notification of the FBR said here on Wednesday.
The inquiry commission board ‘Benami Zone-11’ in Lahore summoned purchasers with largest quality of sugar as declared by the mills in their sales tax return to ascertain their authenticity as buyers.
The officials said that due to logical limitations, lack of manpower and narrow timelines, the authorities, for now, have launched detailed investigation against two mills i.e. Alliance Sugar Mills and Hunza Sugar Mills. It will continue gathering information from banks and initiate proceedings for other mills after concluding the first two cases.
Show-cause notices u/s 22 of Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act 2017 have been served upon M/s Hunza Sugar Mills and M/s Alliance Sugar Mills whereby the mills with actual buyers of sugar and sugar mills brokers have been alleged to have conducted benami transactions. Perusal of the sales tax returns of Alliance Sugar Mills and Hunza Sugar Mills showed that sugar worth Rs19,125,774,948 and Rs5,164,464,58 respectively, for 2017-2020, had been sold by the mills to unregistered persons, notice said.
To check the authenticity of these buyers, the Benami Zone-II, Lahore, issued summons to multiple purchasers, who in their written statements, denied knowledge of any such transaction. During the course of investigation, it was extracted that the unregistered purchasers being shown in sales tax returns of the aforementioned sugar mills were ostensibly owners, including low-paid workers or truck drivers, rather than the real owners, which to-date remain unaware of their involvement in sugar purchase.
The provisions of the law stipulate that subject to the issuance of notice to show-cause u/s 22, the Initiating Officer (IO) has to attach the benami property within 90 days, in case the IO intends to file the reference in the case. The law additionally provides 60 days to the IO for drafting of the case statement to further forward it to the Adjudicating Authority. In case the IO finds no aspect of benami transaction during the investigation within 90 days of issuance of show-cause notice, he is bound by law to drop the proceedings.
Besides confiscation of benami property, the law provides prosecution of benamidar, beneficial owner and abettor etc. Subsequent to the trial, the law provides that the person involved in benami transactions would be sentenced to imprisonment extending from one year to seven years and additional payment of 25 per cent of fair market value of the property involved.
With the filing of reference, the Adjudicating Authority is under obligation to issue notice to the beneficial owner, benamidar and any interested party within 30 days of receipt of reference requiring them to file their reply. In case benamidar/beneficial owner is involved in the commission of benami transaction, the Adjudicating Authority would pass order holding the property referred in reference as benami property and passing order to that effect. The law binds Adjudicating Authority to decide reference within one year from the date of filing of reference. The Adjudicating Authority, after holding the property benami, initiates proceedings for confiscation of benami property.