Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill to cover wide-ranging white-collar crimes

Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill to cover wide-ranging white-collar crimes

The provisions of the fugitives bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday, will apply to those involved in loan defaults, bank frauds, tax evasion, black money, benamy transactions and corruption

The government on Monday introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha seeking punitive powers to target fugitives who have committed white-collar crimes.Significantly, the brief of the proposed legislation is much wider than the initial draft that had been put out by the government last year.

The provisions of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2018 will extend to not only loan defaulters and fraudsters but also to those individuals who violate laws governing taxes, black money, benami properties, financial sector and corruption.Earlier this month, the cabinet had cleared a bill that seeks to give the government powers to attach assets of offenders who are outside the country and do not return to India to face prosecution proceedings even after an arrest warrant is issued.

The bill will be applicable for all offences where the monetary value exceeds Rs100 crore.According to the provisions of the bill, all individuals attempting to elude the Indian legal process from the date of the enactment of the law will be covered.The confiscation of property will not be limited to those acquired through the proceeds or profits of the crime. The bill also provides for confiscation of benami properties.

The enforcement directorate will be the apex agency that will implement the provisions of the bill. The government has also inserted a clause to protect itself and the officers from any legal suits.J.N. Gupta, managing director at Stakeholders Empowerment Services, a proxy advisory firm, welcomed the legislation.The bill was initially envisaged in budget 2017 to bring to task wilful defaulters such as liquor baron Vijay Mallya.

However, the urgency for its introduction increased after the recent Rs12,636 crore scam, perpetrated by jewellers Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, hit Punjab National Bank.Mallya’s spokesperson and Choksi’s lawyer declined to comment.“One can’t blame people for not returning. They should have assurance about fair investigation and personal safety. Mr. Nirav Modi has always responded to all communications by PNB and investigators. So he can’t be termed as a fugitive,” said Vijay Aggarwal, Modi’s lawyer.

The Mint, New Delhi, 13th March 2018

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