Jail If Shell Companies’ Directors Try To Withdraw Money: Centre

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New Delhi: Directors or authorized signatories of preregistered firms who try to take money from the firms’ bank accounts can face up to 10 years imprisonment, the government said today. The directors of shell companies who have not filed income tax returns for three or more years would be disqualified from holding such position in any other firm.

The government said it has identified chartered accountants, company secretaries and cost accountants linked with some shell companies — firms that exist only in paper and have no real business.

Continuing its effort to curb black money, the government said more shell companies will be identified and the “actual beneficiaries and persons” behind these organizations will be arrested.

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The Corporate Affairs Ministry has struck off the names of over 2.09 lakh companies from the records as they have not been carrying out business activities for a long time. The authorities have told banks to freeze their accounts.

The government said if the fraud involves public interest, the punishment would not be less than three years imprisonment.

The directors or authorised signatories of shell companies are banned from operating the firms’ bank accounts. “However, even prior to such action, if they have siphoned off any money, strict action would still be taken against them,” the government said in a statement.

During a review meeting chaired by Minister of State for Corporate Affairs PP Chaudhary in New Delhi today, it was also decided that directors of shell firms would be barred from being reappointed in any of the companies where they had been directors, “thereby compelling them to vacate office”.

“It is expected that as a result of this exercise, at least two to three lakh of such disqualified directors shall get debarred,” the statement said.

Weeding out shell companies will help clean up India’s business environment, Mr Chaudhary said.