The central government said on Friday that in its attempt to curb domestic black money it has unearthed over Rs.1.37 lakh crore worth of tax evasion in 23,064 searches carried out in the last three years.

"The period has witnessed unprecedented enforcement actions in direct and indirect taxes. While 23,064 searches/surveys have been conducted (income tax 17,525; customs 2,509; central excise 1,913; service tax 1,120), more than Rs.1.37 lakh crore of tax evasion has been detected (income tax Rs.69,434 cr; customs Rs.11,405 cr; central excise Rs.13,952 cr; service tax Rs.42,727 cr)," the Finance Ministry said here in a statement on Friday.

"Simultaneously, criminal prosecutions were launched in 2,814 cases (income tax 1,966; customs 526; central excise 293; service tax 29) and 3,893 persons were placed under arrest (customs 3,782; central excise 47; service tax 64)," the statement said.

The Enforcement Directorate in its anti-money laundering actions registered 519 cases and conducted 396 searches. Arrests were made in 79 cases and properties worth Rs.14,933 crore were attached, it said.

The Benami (proxy) prohibition law which remained in-operative for last 28 years was made operational through a comprehensive amendment with effect from November 2016. 

"More than 245 benami transactions have already been identified. Provisional attachments of properties worth Rs.55 crore have already been made in 124 cases," it said.

Crackdown against thousands of shell companies engaged in nefarious activities was effected through enforcement actions (searches, surveys, arrests, prosecutions), the statement noted.

"During the last three financial years (2013-14 to 2015-16), income tax investigations led to detection of more than 1,155 shell companies/entities used as conduits by over 22,000 beneficiaries. The amount involved in non-genuine transactions of such beneficiaries was more than Rs.13,300 crore," it said.

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has issued more than a lakh notices for striking off names of defunct or non-compliant companies. 

"A high-powered group has been set-up for co-ordinating and monitoring the actions taken by departments concerned with the objective of eliminating the conduits of black money generation and application," it said.