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Mallya-like cases: Law soon to seize assets of fugitive economic offenders

Sanjeeb Mukherjee / New Delhi 19 May 17 | 11:13 AM

(Photo: Shutterstock)

In an attempt to make the process of nabbing the likes of Vijay Mallya easier, the central government on Thursday proposed a stringent legislation to confiscate properties of "fugitive economic offenders".

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The draft, 'The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2017,' seeks to deter economic offenders from evading the process of domestic law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian Courts.

Provisions of the proposed bill, once passed in the Parliament, will override other legislations dealing with economic offences.

Proposed bill provides for the setting up of special courts under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) that would have the power to declare a person as a fugitive economic offender.

"It is widely felt that the spectre of high-value economic offenders, absconding from India to defy the legal process, seriously undermines the rule of law in India," the finance ministry said in a statement.

"It is, therefore, felt necessary to provide an effective, expeditious and constitutionally permissible deterrent to ensure that such actions are curbed," it added.

The draft law, which has been shared in the public domain for comments from stakeholders, also lays down the main consequences faced by an offender declared fugitive.

These include confiscation of any property that is a proceed of crime of the accused or any other property owned by such a person in India. Another provision has been added that disallows the accused and his/her company from any civil claim. Such a step can be taken at the discretion of the courts and against such a person or a company where the accused is a promoter or holds a key managerial post.

"If at any point of time, the said offender returns to India and surrenders before the appropriate jurisdictional court, proceedings under this Act would cease by law," the draft law said.

As per the draft law, a 'fugitive economic offender', means any individual against whom an arrest warrant has been issued in relation to an economic offence and has subsequently left the country to evade criminal prosecution.

It further proposes that the burden of proof for establishing that an individual is a fugitive economic offender will be on the authorities.

"The confiscation order of the special court will, to the extent possible, identify the property that constitutes proceeds of crime which are to be confiscated and in case such properties cannot be identified, quantify the value of the proceeds of crime," it said.

The proposed law is to provide for measures to deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had in Februaury made an announcement regarding the matter during his Budget speech.

Jaitley had said that the government was considering introducing legislative changes or even a new law to confiscate the assets of such absconders till they submit to the jurisdiction of the appropriate legal forum.

He had said that in the recent past, there have been instances of big time offenders, including economic offenders, fleeing the country to escape the reach of law.

"We have to ensure that the law is allowed to take its own course," Jaitley had said.

Mallya, the 61-year-old chief of the erstwhile Kingfisher Airlines who owes over Rs 9,000 crore to various Indian banks, had fled India to escape legal proceedings in connection with the loans.

India is making efforts to get the embattled Indian tycoon extradited from the UK.

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