Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

Government cracks down on financial fraud, approves Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill

Cabinet clears Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill assets to be confiscated without conviction Pic courtesy ANI
Charlie Simmons | 03 March, 2018, 00:08

This bill accompanies the setting up of the National Financing Reporting Authority to check audit reports of the country's banks.

March 2: In a major move to implement stricter supervision of auditing firms and individuals, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the proposal for establishing the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA). If any individual who has committed a scheduled offence and against whom an arrest warrant has been issued by a competent court leaves the country, refuses to return to face criminal prosecution, he will be termed as a fugitive economic offender.

Industrialist Vijay Mallya, who has been recognised as a wilful defaulter with outstanding loans of Rs 8,191 crore to public sector banks as on December 31, 2016, has also left the country.

He said that all their assets, not just the proceeds of crime, would be confiscated and they would be prevented from pursuing civil cases in the country.

Read Also: Nirav Modi's Firestar Diamond files for bankruptcy in US The new law will allow quicker recovery of dues through a special court from such absconding offenders. "There will also be a provision to confiscate those assets outside India but co-operation of that country will be needed", finance minister Arun Jaitley said at a press briefing today.

"(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law, any court in India in any civil proceeding before it, in its discretion, disentitle any company from putting forward or defending any civil claim, if an individual filing the claim on behalf of the company, or any promoter or key managerial personnel or majority shareholder of the company has been declared a fugitive economic offender".

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Jaitley said the bill was focused on the confiscation of assets because the "trial of a fugitive will never be complete".

"This is triggered by the offender being a fugitive".

"The bill will help in laying down measures to deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts", Jaitley said. The new law will apply "the moment the warrant is issued (and) the court decides the man is not submitting".

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. "The cabinet has now approved it".

The rationale behind the bill is to check the trend of rising instances of economic offenders fleeing the jurisdiction of Indian courts, anticipating the commencement, or during the pendency, of criminal proceedings. All these new rules will be put in place under section 132 of the Companies Act, once NFRA comes into being.

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

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