The Indian Parliament passed a legislation that provides for confiscation of local as well as overseas assets of big economic offenders who flee the country to avoid prosecution. The government has been lately dealing with the problem of white-collar crimes, where alleged offenders like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi have been absconding from trials even after various arrest warrants were issued.
The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018 was passed by a voice vote in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. It was cleared in the Lok Sabha on July 19. While introducing the bill in the Upper House, currently holding the position of the Finance Minister, Piyush Goyal said there have been many instances of economic offenses for past several decades. The existing laws do not allow the authorities to adequately deal with the severity of the problem, he said.
"(Existing) criminal law does not allow us to impound their property," he said while explaining the rationale behind the bill, which replaces an ordinance. "This bill is an effective, expeditious and constitutional way to stop these offenders from running away. Legislative changes or a new law must be in place to confiscate the assets of such absconders till they don't present themselves before the courts. We will also work out what has to be done with the confiscated assets," Goyal said.
During the debate, the Ministry of External Affairs informed the Parliament that 28 Indians who were involved in financial irregularities like loan defaulting, benami properties, financial corruptions, black money and violation of tax laws had fled the country between 2015 and June 2018. The list compiled by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) includes Mallya, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Lalit Modi.
Further, justifying the financial limit of Rs 100 crore for invoking the provisions of fugitive economic offenders law, Goyal said it was being done to "catch the big offenders and not to clog the courts". The Enforcement Directorate will be the investigative agency under the Act, he said.
Inputs from PTI