Published: Fri, March 02, 2018
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill to deal with offenders fleeing country

Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill to deal with offenders fleeing country

THE UNION Cabinet on Thursday approved the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill that seeks to confiscate and sell all assets of absconding economic offenders.

The bill, which deals with those fleeing overseas to avoid getting caught, aims to provide an "effective, expeditious and constitutionally permissible deterrent to ensure that such actions are curbed" and steps can be taken against the culprit.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley briefed reporters on the Bill and hoped that it will be passed in the upcoming session of Parliament.

"The fugitive bill is for the fugitive who escapes the country", Jaitley added.

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Days after the Rs 11,400-crore PNB scandal came to light, the government rushed towards pushing the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2018, which would give legal teeth to the central agencies to attach benami properties of financial scamsters, who have been declared absconders.

Industrialist Vijay Mallya, who has been recognised as a wilful defaulter with outstanding loans of Rs 8,191 crore to public sector banks as on December 31, 2016, has also left the country.

Jaitley said that unlike the new bill, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act allowed the confiscation only of economic offenders' profits of crime, and only on conviction. Such economic offenders will be tried under prevention of money laundering act. "There will also be a provision to confiscate those assets outside India but co-operation of that country will be needed", finance minister Arun Jaitley said at a press briefing today.

The Bill has been proposed to address the lacunae in the present laws and lay down measures to deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts. "We can not allow people to make a mockery of the law".

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He added: "We had announced in last year's budget that we would bring in a law to confiscate the properties of economic offence fugitives". Without making any bones about why the Fugitive Offenders Bill now, the government has in a way agreed that the absence of such offenders from the courts, among other things, undermines the rule of the law.

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.

Under the Bill, the offenders will get only six weeks to comply.

The Bill was cleared by the Law Ministry with recommendations on reconciliation of provisions with the existing laws.

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"If at any point of time in the course of the proceeding prior to the declaration, however, the alleged Fugitive Economic Offender returns to India and submits to the appropriate jurisdictional Court, proceedings under the proposed Act would cease by law", an official statement issued after the Cabinet meeting said.

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