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15.65 lakh demat accounts stay frozen for lack of PAN details
May, 17th 2008
They form 10% of the total number of accounts

Freeze zone

7.42 lakh accounts have shares lying in them.

Accounts frozen by NSDL contain shares worth Rs 35,000 cr.

There is talk of CBDT attaching the accounts after the fresh deadline passes.

Sharvari Patwa

The number of demat accounts that remain frozen for lack of PAN details is still substantial. It has been more than two years since PAN was made mandatory for maintaining these accounts.

There are close to 15.65 lakh frozen demat accounts, more than 10 per cent of the total number of accounts, data provided by the depositories NSDL and CDSL show.

Out of these, 7.42 lakh accounts have shares lying in them. At NSDL, frozen demat accounts number 6.24 lakh, and the value of shares they contain is close to Rs 35,000 crore, said sources.

Why investors would pass up an opportunity to claim ownership of demat accounts which have shares of value lying in them raises doubts about the genuineness of ownership of these accounts, said market participants. It also raises the question of why account holders would not claim their accounts when talks are doing the rounds that the Central Board of Direct Taxes might attach these accounts if PAN details were not provided within the new deadline to be issued.

A majority of the frozen accounts are likely to contain black money and account holders cannot provide PAN details, said Mr Sanjay Someshwar, a broker with Ventura Securities, which is also a Depository Participant. There is a possibility that some of these accounts might belong to people who are dead, but their heirs do not have proper legal documents to claim those accounts, he added.

(SEBI made PAN mandatory for new demat accounts from April 1, giving existing accounts a deadline of December 2007 for furnishing PAN. Over 30 lakh demat accounts without PAN were frozen after that date.)

Ten per cent of the letters sent by the depositories to the addresses supplied with the frozen accounts have come back, said an official with a Depository Participant.

The fact that many people do not have any further intention of trading after having made a one-time use of their account, is also a factor that has to be taken into account, according to DP officials. Some of the accounts could be associated with cases related to the IPO scam where the objective of opening many demat accounts was to get more allotment in a public offering of shares.

In cases such as these the people are scared that tax authorities, SEBI or even CBI might pursue them, and they do not want to claim such accounts even when there are shares lying in them. Also we have reason to believe that most of these frozen accounts are benami accounts (close to 90 per cent of them) and their ultimate owners are simply trying to lie low, said an official with a depository participant.

The total number of frozen accounts with and without balance numbered 15.65 lakh as at April end. They constitute more than 10 per cent of the total demat accounts with both the depositories.

Ten per cent is a large proportion, and it is bound to raise our antennae, said a tax department official.

CBDT officials would not confirm whether they intended to attach the accounts after issue of a fresh deadline for furnishing PAN. CBDT will take action only on specific information on tax evasion, said an official.

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