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Cabinet clears Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill

Friday,02 Mar 2018

Media Eye News Bureau: The Cabinet cleared the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill on Thursday in order to tighten the noose around fugitives like Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya. The Bill has a provision for confiscation of all assets of absconding fraudsters and loan defaulters in order to recover dues.

The Union that was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi also approved of setting up of a National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) as an independent regulator for the auditors.

The proposed law will also apply to defaulters who have fled the country and have an outstanding of Rs 100 crore. It aims to confiscate and trade the assets of Nirav Modi-type fugitives so as to quickly recover the dues. The Bill will be taken to Parliament for approval in the second half of the Budget session that will commence from March 5.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the Bill defines a fugitive offender as a person against whom a court has issued an arrest warrant for a scheduled offence and who has left the country to avoid criminal prosecution, or refuses to return to the country for a trial. He added that this new law is different from the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) that has also provided for confiscation of assets of such offenders, but here only profit of crime is confiscated and that too upon conviction. The new law extends to all assets whether or not it is acquired as a result of crime.

He said, “A trial of fugitive will never be complete. The new law will apply the moment warrant is issued (and) the court decides the man is not submitting”.

An official statement issued after the Cabinet meeting said, “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”.

The Bill has been proposed to address the gap in current laws and specify measures to deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts.

The law was announced in the Budget for 2017-18, but was hastened after the Nirav Modi-Mehul Choksi fraud case.

Arun Jaitley asserted, “In the last Budget, there was an announcement that the government bring law to confiscate assets of fugitives under economic offences. That has been approved by (the) cabinet today”.

He also said that the new law will apply to both new and old cases of persons who have fled India in order to avoid prosecution.

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