Govt revives bill to seize fugitive assets

Kejriwal Attacks Modi Govt Over Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill

In order to tighten noose around such big frauds, Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill will enable confiscation of assets without conviction in cases where economic offenders flee the country, while the NFRA will be an independent regulator for auditors who are directly or indirectly involved in monetary transactions in any financial institutions. "Even benami assets, if any, would be seized".

FM Jaitley also explained that new and old cases of persons who have fled the country to avoid prosecution will be covered by the new Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill.

A wide array of economic offences, including those contained in the Indian Penal Code, the Prevention of Corruption Act, the SEBI Act and the Companies Act, among others, are covered under the Bill.

The Bill, which assumes significance in light of the Nirav Modi PNB fraud, aims to prevent economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by going overseas, and thus remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts.

- As per the draft Bill approved by the Law Ministry, special courts will be set up under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The Cabinet also cleared the establishment of National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) after reports of various auditing lapses in the banking sector resulting in a series of fraudulent transactions.

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The proposed law aims to bring to book offenders who have failed to pay back huge bank loans, and refused to return to the country to face legal action. But if he sends a lawyer while choosing to stay away from India, a hearing would start to have him declared a "fugitive economic offender".

The proposed law, though it was announced in the Budget for 2017-18, has been hastened after Mr Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi allegedly defrauded state-owned Punjab National Bank (PNB) of '12,700 crore before leaving the country and refusing to cooperate with the law enforcement agencies.

In the last budget, there was an announcement that the government bring law to confiscate assets of fugitives under economic offenses.

Elaborating further, it says, "The absence of such offenders from Indian courts has several deleterious consequences-first, it hampers investigation in criminal cases; second, it wastes precious time of courts of law; third, it undermines the rule of law in India". "That has been approved by (the) cabinet today".

The jurisdiction of the NFRA will also extend to all listed companies as well as large unlisted public companies.

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

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