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Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill applicable with retrospective effect

03 March 2018, 12:04 | Tara Lloyd

Pic courtesy ANI

Cabinet clears Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill assets to be confiscated without conviction

The bill provides for "disentitling" the offender from defending any civil claim.

Moneycontrol had first reported on Monday that the government may propose a new law to deal with financial offenders like Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya. If any individual who has committed a scheduled offence and against whom an arrest warrant has been issued by a competent court leaves the country, refuses to return to face criminal prosecution, he will be termed as a fugitive economic offender.

Besides, Nirav Modi, alleged economic offenders Vijay Mallya, liquor baron and owner of now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines, and former Indian Premier League chairman Lalit Modi are also overseas after having defaulted on bank loans running into hundreds of crores of Rupees. The confiscation will not just be confined to the proceeds of crime but will also include all assets including benami properties.

This comes in the backdrop of main offenders of multi-crore fraud case in Punjab National Bank having already left the country and concern over auditing standards and lack of compliance of banks that gave loans to them and other such offenders.

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Moneycontrol had in a February 26 exclusive news break revealed the government was readying a tough law that would enable speedier recovery of dues from Modi-type fugitives. For seizing the assets outside India, co-operation of that country will be needed too, said Finance Minister.

Once the Bill is passed by both houses, an administrator will be appointed to manage and dispose of the confiscated property under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act.

In September, the Union Law Ministry had approved the Finance Ministry's draft of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill-2017, and its passage into a law is now being expedited as part of the government's response to the PNB scam.

The Court will issue a notice to the person named a "fugitive economic offender".

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The new law is different from the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), which also provides for confiscation of assets of economic offenders, he said.

The Cabinet was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which approved the loan. "There have been several instances of economic offenders fleeing the jurisdiction of Indian courts, anticipating the commencement, or during the pendency, of criminal proceedings". Another key decision is that the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) has been stripped of powers to initiate disciplinary action against CAs and audit firms dealing with listed companies, large unlisted firms and specific companies. The offender will not be able to pursue any civil cases in India, a government statement said.

Investigators have also arrested 13 people, including some high-ranking bank officials, for their alleged involvement in the fraud.

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