The Centre has ordered fast-tracking the payment of cash rewards to the tune of Rs 1 crore to secret informers who provide tip-offs to investigative agencies in connection with benami properties. The decision in this regard was taken last month and is likely to be implemented soon. The amount of cash reward has also been increased.
In yet another attempt to curb black money and undisclosed properties across the country following the demonetisation initiative, the Centre has ordered all the top officials of investigative agencies, including Enforcement Directorate (ED), Income Tax (I-T) Separtment and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), to focus on cash rewards to secret informers.
“An informer will get minimum Rs 15 lakh and maximum Rs 1 crore for providing any information regarding undisclosed properties. The amount to be paid will be decided on the basis of the value of the seized property,” a senior Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) official, who is part of the policy making, said on the condition of anonymity.
“After receiving any information, the investigative agencies will carry out a formal investigation to verify the reliability of the source. Once the verification process is over and it is found that the information given by the secret informer is true, the informer will be paid the amount prescribed by senior officials,” the same official quoted above told The Sunday Guardian.
According to the official, the information will have to be accurate and the identity of the informer will be kept secret. The government will never disclose the informer’s identity as this could endanger the informer’s life.
It is a common practice of the ED, I-T and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence to reward informers. However, earlier, the reward amount was not so attractive; so the Centre has decided to increase the amount and ordered fast-tracking the payment of the reward money. Officials said that finding undisclosed properties and their owners is a tough task for the investigative agencies.
“The decision of quick payment of cash reward would make the investigation process easier, faster and effective. If we offer an attractive cash prize to informers, our task will become easy and we will start revealing the names of benami property holders across the country. Also, after the increase in reward money and swift payments, the policy will attract more and more people to become secret informers,” the CBDT official quoted above said.
“The changes in reward policy are in the process of getting a green light from the Ministry of Finance. According to sources, the policy will get the ministry’s nod by the end of this month,” the CBDT official added.
The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016, which came into effect from 1 November 2016, has proved to be an important instrument in fighting against black money. Several benami transactions have been identified since the amended laws have come into effect.