Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill cleared by PM Narendra Modi led Cabinet

Randal Sanchez
March 2, 2018

Facing criticism from opposition for not being able to stop the PNB fraud accused Nirav Modi from escaping the country, the Cabinet on Thursday approved the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill that enables confiscation of assets without conviction in cases where economic offenders flee the country. "Even benami assets, if any, would be seized".

The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2018 has a provision to confiscate assets of the offender in foreign land as well, for which the government will have to make arrangements with different countries.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley briefed reporters on the Bill and hoped that it will be passed in the upcoming session of Parliament.

It provides for an application being made before a special court for a declaration that an individual is a fugitive economic offender, attach and confiscate his properties in India and overseas, including benami property, and disposing them off to recover dues.

"In order to address the lacunae in the present laws and lay down measures to deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts, the Bill is being proposed", it added.

If any individual who has committed a scheduled offence and against whom an arrest warrant has been issued by a competent court leaves the country, refuses to return to face criminal prosecution, he will be termed as a fugitive economic offender.

The government, in fact, is expecting a very rough time in parliament when it meets on March 5 after a recess in the budget session.

Simbhaoli Sugar, OBC tank on fraud probe by CBI
This way, OBC claimed, Simbhaoli Sugars has misappropriated the money lent by it and "there is clear cut division of funds". This resulted in outstanding loan of Rs. 97.85 crore (as alleged fraud) and fresh corporate loan of Rs 109.08 crore.

- As per the draft Bill approved by the Law Ministry, special courts will be set up under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The cabinet had also approved the constitution of a National Financial Reporting Authority, which would be "an oversight body" monitoring accounting and auditing irregularities, Jaitley said.

Jaitley also said that the fugitive economic offenders will be disentitled from defending any civil claim.

The proposed law aims to bring to book offenders who have failed to pay back huge bank loans, and refused to return to the country to face legal action. As per the Bill, cases where the total value involved is Rs 100 crore or more will be tried and referred to the court.

He added: "We had announced in last year's budget that we would bring in a law to confiscate the properties of economic offence fugitives".

Jaitley said the bill was focused on the confiscation of assets because the "trial of a fugitive will never be complete".

Once both the houses pass the bill, the new legislation will empower investigating agencies to confiscate any property of the absconding offenders without any encumbrances.

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