Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's Briefing On Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill: Highlights

Nirav Modi

Union Cabinet on Thursday gave a green nod to the proposed law that would enable the government to confiscate properties of fugitives involved in economic offences amounting more than Rs 100 crore.

The bill gives the government right to seize property of economic offenders who have fled India.

The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2017 was first mentioned by Jaitley in his Budget speech in 2017-18, against the backdrop of bringing back Vijay Mallya, who owes over Rs 9,000 crore in the Kingfisher Airlines fraud case. "There will also be the provision to confiscate those assets outside India, but co-operation of that country will also be needed", Jaitley said whle addressing a press conference.

The minister, while introducing the details of the Bill, had said: "In the recent past, there have been instances of big time offenders, including economic offenders, fleeing the country to escape the reach of law".

The Bill defines a fugitive economic offender as a person who has an arrest warrant issued regarding a scheduled offence but leaves or has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution. "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 government said. It provides for disentitlement of the fugitive economic offender from defending any civil claim.

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The move came after Punjab National Bank last month reported to authorities about the 1.8 billion USA dollars fraud, masterminded by billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi, though he claimed to owe the bank only 775 million US dollars. Being declared a fugitive offender will have many consequences - confiscation of all assets in India.

Officials said the bill was being dusted off as Punjab National Bank had argued that the attachment of Nirav's stores and their goods, supposedly valued at Rs 5,100 crore, was not helping as the properties could not be auctioned to compensate the bank.

The finance minister also said that the Cabinet has also approved establishment of the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA).

In the last budget, there was an announcement that the government bring law to confiscate assets of fugitives under economic offenses. "The cabinet has now approved it".

"The jurisdiction of NFRA for investigation of chartered accountants and their firms under Section 132 of the Act would extend to listed companies and large unlisted public companies, the thresholds for which shall be prescribed in the Rules".

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