ECO­NOMIC OF­FEND­ERS

Nir­mala does well to re­it­er­ate In­dia’s re­solve

DNA (Daily News & Analysis) Mumbai Edition - - FRONT PAGE -

Nir­mala Sithara­man’s strong mes­sage at the G20 Fi­nance Ministers and Cen­tral Bank Gov­er­nors’ meet­ing is un­equiv­o­cal. It re­veals that the Modi gov­ern­ment is as de­ter­mined to go after eco­nomic of­fend­ers in their sec­ond term as they were in the first. To coun­tries that pro­vide ci­ti­zen­ship to fugi­tive eco­nomic of­fend­ers through in­vest­ment-based schemes, In­dia’s fi­nance min­is­ter has called at­ten­tion to the need to deal with such prac­tices. She un­der­scored the im­por­tance of in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion when it comes to deal­ing with eco­nomic of­fend­ers who “flee their coun­tries to es­cape the con­se­quences of law”. The men­tion was to draw at­ten­tion to the case of Me­hul Choksi — among oth­ers — wanted in the multi-crore Pun­jab Na­tional Bank scam, who sur­ren­dered his In­dian pass­port to be­come a ci­ti­zen of An­tigua and Bar­buda un­der its Ci­ti­zen­shipby-in­vest­ment (CIP) scheme. Ac­cord­ing to the scheme, for­eign clients can get ci­ti­zen­ship by in­vest­ing any­thing up­ward of $100,000 in the coun­try. With it, the per­son can draw sev­eral ben­e­fits as the coun­try’s pass­port can avail visa-free travel to over 100 plus coun­tries, in­clud­ing the EU and UK. In­dia is cur­rently pur­su­ing Choksi’s re­turn with the gov­ern­ment of An­tigua. But Choksi is just one in a long list of fugi­tives. It also in­cludes lu­mi­nar­ies such as Vi­jay Mallya and Ni­rav Modi, who have un­doubt­edly — with the help of some clever lawyers — wormed their way to for­eign coun­tries, and used sim­i­lar laws that per­mit in­vestors to change their cit­i­zen­ships. It is pre­cisely keep­ing this in mind that the gov­ern­ment last year pro­mul­gated the ‘fugi­tive eco­nomic of­fend­ers’ or­di­nance, which gives the author­i­ties the pow­ers to search peo­ple sus­pected of hid­ing data, records or pro­ceeds of crime re­lated to some­one who has fled the coun­try. In­dia is on the right track.

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