President Ram Nath Kovind has given his assent to a bill that will allow the seizure of domestic assets of those whom a court rules to be fugitive economic offenders, PTI reported on Sunday. The bill will replace an ordinance promulgated by the government in April. The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha had passed the bill last month.
The Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018, allows the formation of a special court under the money laundering law to declare a person a fugitive economic offender. Courts or tribunals can also bar such offenders or their associated companies from filing or defending civil claims before it.
Fugitive economic offenders are those against whom arrest warrants are issued in connection with economic offences and have left India in order to avoid being prosecuted. Offences involving amounts of at least Rs 100 crore will attract the provisions.
While introducing the bill in the Rajya Sabha, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal had said its purpose was to bring back fugitive economic offenders and stop them from fleeing the country. Existing criminal laws are inadequate in dealing with such offenders as they do not allow the enforcement agencies to impound the property of defaulters, he had said.
“This bill is an effective, expeditious and constitutional way to stop these offenders from running away,” he had said.
The ordinance in April had come weeks after billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi fled the country in January, after allegedly defrauding the Punjab National Bank of over Rs 13,000 crore. Liquor baron Vijay Mallya has fled to the United Kingdom after allegedly cheating banks of Rs 9,000 crore.