Nirmala does well to reiterate India’s resolve
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.