Rajya Sabha passes Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill; move empowers govt to prevent fraudsters from fleeing country
Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, said the instances of people escaping and evading the legal process was increasing and that this needed to be checked
The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill that aims at preventing culprits from evading the law and fleeing the country.
The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on 19 July.
Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, while moving the bill in the upper house of the Parliament, said the instances of people escaping and evading the legal process was increasing and that this needed to be checked as the existing laws cannot deal with the severity of problem and the "criminal law does not allow us to impound [offenders'] property."
"This bill is an effective, expeditious and constitutional way to stop these offenders from running away. Legislative changes or a new law must be in place to confiscate assets of such absconders from running away.
"Legislative changes or a new law must be in place to confiscate assets of such absconders till they don't present themselves in front of courts. We will also work out what has to be done with the confiscated assets," he said. The finance minister said the government will ensure that unless a person comes back, he cannot try and stall the confiscation of his property in the garb of civil cases.
Goyal said there are provisions of special courts to declare a person a fugitive economic offender in an expeditious way. Once a person is declared so, his property will be confiscated, managed and disposed of, he said, adding that offences involving funds over Rs 100 crore will be dealt with under this law.
Last week, speaking in the Lok Sabha, Goyal said the bill gives power to investigative agencies to seize properties that are not only in the name of the offender, but also the ones that are 'benami'.
In June, a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court in Mumbai summoned beleaguered liquor baron Vijay Mallya to appear before it on 27 August, on the Enforcement Directorate's (ED) plea seeking action against him under the fugitive economic offenders ordinance in an over Rs 9,000 crore bank fraud case. It was the first time the action was initiated under the ordinance promulgated by the Narendra Modi government. If Mallya does not appear before the court, he risks being declared a fugitive economic offender, and properties linked to him will be confiscated.
In the Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case too, the ED, in May, was planning to move a special court in Mumbai to seek permission for the "immediate confiscation" of assets worth Rs 7,000 crore, belonging to jeweller Nirav Modi, under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance.
With inputs from PTI
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