Govt to nail fugitive economic offenders

Laura Christensen
March 3, 2018

Once an application is put forward before the special court to declare an individual a fugitive economic offender, the process to attach that person's property will commence. "We will try and make sure that this is passed as fast, as expeditiously as possible (by Parliament) because we can't allow people to make a mockery of the law, that you first indulge in loot and then refuse to submit to the jurisdiction of our legal system, and I think we have a very responsible Parliament", said Jaitley, when asked whether the proposed law would be passed in the Budget Session. Modi has been accused of defrauding the bank of Rs 12,703 crore.

Assets overseas will also be liable for confiscation but it will depend on cooperation of countries where these assets are present. It will apply to new and all old cases of persons who have fled the country to avoid prosecution. The twin moves demonstrate the government's determination to bring to book fugitive diamond billionaires Modi and Choksi who benefited from the fraudulent Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) issued by executives of Mumbai branch of Punjab National Bank.

According the bill, economic offenders will be treated as criminals.

The Cabinet on Thursday approved the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill.

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The Bill, however, primarily empowers the Government and investigating agencies to confiscate property and assets of economic offenders and defaulters who flee India. Jaitley concluded by saying, "In the last Budget, there was an announcement that the government bring law to confiscate assets of fugitives under economic offences". Under the proposed law, any individual with an arrest warrant for specified economic offences who evades arrest can be declared a "fugitive economic offender" by a special court.

- The law would cover economic offences, including non-payment of loans above Rs 100 crore. "The cabinet has now approved it". "There have been several instances of economic offenders fleeing the jurisdiction of Indian courts, anticipating the commencement, or during the pendency, of criminal proceedings". The existing civil and criminal provisions in law are not entirely adequate to deal with the severity of the problem and so the new law provide an effective, expeditious and constitutionally permissible deterrent to ensure that such actions are curbed.

The NFRA will help enforcement of auditing standards and quality of audits to strengthen the independence of audit firms and quality of audits and thereby enhancing investor and public confidence in financial discloser of companies.

The minister said that inherent regulatory role of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) shall continue in respect of its members in general and specifically with respect to audits pertaining to private limited companies, and public unlisted companies below the threshold limit to be notified in the rules.

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