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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

India freezes 209,000 bank accounts of shell companies

Owners and their nominated signatories will not be able to operate bank accounts until such companies are legally restored

Mumbai, India. The government has frozen more than 200,000 bank accounts: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg
Mumbai, India. The government has frozen more than 200,000 bank accounts: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg

India has frozen the bank accounts of 209,032 suspected shell companies as part of a crackdown on illegal transactions and tax evasion, the finance ministry said on Tuesday.

The latest action against shell companies - which have no active business operations or assets - comes months after authorities ordered nearly 200,000 such firms to be shut down.

Under the order, the owners and their nominated signatories will not be able to operate bank accounts until such companies are legally restored, the ministry said in a statement.

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"The department of financial services has ... advised all banks that they should take immediate steps to put restrictions on bank accounts of such struck off companies," the statement said.

Tax officials say the owners of shell companies create elaborate smokescreens, including naming personal servants and chauffeurs as board directors, to obscure the ultimate beneficiaries, conceal political investment, evade tax, commit fraud or manipulate tenders.

In his Independence Day address on August 15, the prime minister Narendra Modi described such firms as "looters of the nation's wealth".