Law to take on eco­nomic fugi­tives ready

Hindustan Times (Gurgaon) - - Nation - HT Cor­re­spon­dent let­ters@hin­dus­tan­


NEW DELHI: The gov­ern­ment has drawn up a draft law to tackle eco­nomic of­fend­ers flee­ing abroad by al­low­ing quicker and eas­ier con­fis­ca­tion of their prop­er­ties, of­fi­cials said on Mon­day.

The Cen­tre is plan­ning on in­tro­duc­ing the bill in the Lok Sabha when the bud­get ses­sion re­sumes, they added.

Named the Fugi­tive Eco­nomic Of­fend­ers Bill, 2018, the new leg­is­la­tion aims to em­power gov­ern­ment agen­cies to seize prop­er­ties owned by an eco­nomic of­fender who is on the run. The new bill will also en­sure that the con­fis­ca­tion will not face any civil claims of man­agers, share­hold­ers or other part­ners.

While the bill is set to be in­tro­duced amid the na­tion­wide up­roar over the al­leged bank fraud by jew­eller Ni­rav Modi and the Op­po­si­tion’s on­slaught on the gov­ern­ment for “al­low­ing the him to flee”, it was con­ceived af­ter liquor baron Vi­jay Mallya fled the coun­try in 2016.

Fi­nance min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley had hinted at mea­sures against such of­fend­ers in his 2017 bud­get speech, say­ing, “In the re­cent past, there have been in­stances of big time of­fend­ers, in­clud­ing eco­nomic of­fend­ers, flee­ing the coun­try to es­cape the reach of law. We have to en­sure that the law is al­lowed to take its own course. Gov­ern­ment is there­fore con­sid­er­ing in­tro­duc­tion of leg­isla­tive changes, or even a new law, to con­fis­cate the as­sets of such per­sons lo­cated within the coun­try, till they sub­mit to the ju­ris­dic­tion of the ap­pro­pri­ate le­gal fo­rum...”

The bill is part of an over­ar­ch­ing set of mea­sures set up to counter cor­rup­tion af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi swept to power rid­ing high on in­cum­bency and graft charges against the UPA min­is­ters in 2014. The gov­ern­ment has al­ready tight­ened the ‘be­nami’ trans­ac­tions law, amended the In­come Tax Act, set up a spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion team for re­cov­er­ing il­le­gal money stashed abroad and de­mon­e­tised high-value bank notes.

Ac­cord­ing to an­other of­fi­cial, the pro­posed law de­fines a fugi­tive eco­nomic of­fender as a per­son who faces an ar­rest war­rant for eco­nomic or fi­nan­cial of­fences but has left the coun­try and is un­will­ing to re­turn to face in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Un­der the new law, prop­er­ties will be con­fis­cated when the value of the crime ex­ceeds ₹100 crore.

The fi­nan­cial in­tel­li­gence unit, un­der the min­istry of fi­nance, will file an ap­pli­ca­tion in the rel­e­vant court for seizure of these prop­er­ties.

The bill also pro­vides for eas­ier and quicker sell­ing of these seized prop­er­ties to re­cover money owed to banks and cred­i­tors. An ad­min­is­tra­tor can be ap­pointed un­der the pro­posed bill who will over­see this ex­er­cise.

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