Bill approved to confiscate all assets of 'fugitive offenders'

Kejriwal Attacks Modi Govt Over Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill

Kejriwal Attacks Modi Govt Over Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill

In a bid to tighten noose around fugitives like diamond merchant Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya, the Cabinet on Thursday approved the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill that provides for confiscating all assets of absconding fraudsters and loan defaulters to recover dues.

Addressing a press conference in Delhi, Jaitley said, "Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2018 has been brought to confiscate the assets of a fugitive, including Benami assets". "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.

The Bill, however, primarily empowers the Government and investigating agencies to confiscate property and assets of economic offenders and defaulters who flee India.

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The minister, while introducing the details of the Bill, had said: "In the recent past, there have been instances of big time offenders, including economic offenders, fleeing the country to escape the reach of law".

The bill defines a fugitive economic offender as a person who has an arrest warrant issued in respect of a scheduled offence and who leaves or has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution, or refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution. Briefing the media, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Bill would be taken to Parliament for approval in the second half of the Budget Session beginning March 5.

Such offenders will be tried under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002.

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The government also chose to set up a National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) to frame rules governing the conduct of chartered accountants and auditors.

- The economic offenders would not be able to stake claim on the properties seized by the Income Tax department or the Enforcement Directorate, even if their yet to be proclaimed guilty by the courts.

The government faced the Opposition's heat after a Rs 11,400-crore fraud at the Punjab National Bank (PNB), allegedly masterminded by fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, rocked the country. This authority will have it specified on which cases it can act under the rules. After the alleged economic offender gets declared a fugitive by the special courts, he/she would be provided a period of only six weeks to depose before the investigators. An administrator will be appointed to manage and dispose of the confiscated property. The Central Government can also refer such other entities for investigation where public interest would be involved.

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