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Law to take on economic offenders ready, govt plans to introduce in parliament

The Centre is planning on introducing the bill in the Lok Sabha when the budget session resumes

india Updated: Feb 27, 2018 22:31 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Law,Parliament,economic offenders
Indian Air Force C-17 Globemaster III (C) and SU-30, planes fly past over the Parliament house during Republic Day rehearsals.(PTI File Photo)

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.

First Published: Feb 27, 2018 22:30 IST