Better late than never. The NDA government needs to be hailed for finally bringing into consideration the significant Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2018 passed by the union cabinet to be further ratified by both the houses of parliament to make it a law.
Though there is no dearth of laws against fradulent practices and money laundering activities in our country but the recent scams of gigantic nature involving thousands of crores in which the accused had clandestinely left the country for foreign nations after transferring the maximum siphoned off amount to foreign banks and investing the same there thus enjoying the venerable status as prestigious citizens there.
The recent examples of Lalit Modi, Vijay Mallaya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Chowksi are the glaring examples who not only cheated India of its tax payers money worth 18000 crores in all, roughly, but had also escaped to foreign lands making mockery of our law enforcing agencies and the system of governance.
There are several other such fraudsters and money launderers not so popular who are also out of the country after committing frauds and economic offences. Moreover, in the absence of the extradition treaties with the countries where these fraudsters have taken comfortable refuge and filing of several cases in the foreign courts too, make things extremely complicated in ensuring the repatriation of these economic offenders to India.
In certain cases while these offenders are labelled as absconders in India, in the countries of their refuge they are considered to be the honorable NRIs and prestigious investors of those countries, contributing healthily in strengthening the economies of the foreign nations with the siphoned off thousands of crores of the India’s tax payer money.
In the recently declared over 9000 willful economic defaulters’ list there may be several of such offenders who must have allegedly transferred their money to foreign banks and several of them must have eloped by now. Therefore the need of the hour is to recorrect and revitalise the falling Indian economy and the best way is to invent stringent economic laws so as to apply expeditious brakes on their fraudulent financial activities and transactions. The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2018, likely to become an act, if unanimously ratified by both the houses of Parliament in the near future will definitely be a great deterrent against such economic offenders.
Under this new law the fraudsters or economic offenders above the range of hundred crores, fled abroad, would be liable for stringent punishment and their entire property in India including the proceeds of profits in currency would be confiscated by the government. Usually, these economic offenders even after eloping to a foreign country sell their properties in India sitting abroad, purchased by the illegal bank loans and get the booty transferred through various illegal means of Hawala.
The government is also trying to increase the influence of this law by deliberating with countries abroad and bringing the foreign properties and bank accounts under this Indian law so that the foreign properties of these economic offenders including bank proceeds could also be consfiscated simultaneously. If there will be such a pressure, the economic offenders can relent and come back to India to face trial and fight their case independently.
According to the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018, if the accused comes back to his country and surrenders himself, the ACT would not be applicable on him and he will be allowed to wrest his case in courts with the help of his hired lawyers as per the Indian norms.
It may be recalled that there have been lot of hue and cry over the cases of Lalit Modi, Vijay Mallaya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Chowksi including the owner of Rotomac pens who’d fled the country after committing embezzlement of over 1800 crores or more in total, tentatively. The owner of Rotomac is however in Kanpur and has accepted for having not been able to return the loan of more than 3 thousand crores which has further multiplied with several CBI, ED and Income tax cases lodged against him.
SUNIL NEGI, PRESIDENT, UTTARAKHAND JOURNALISTS FORUM