The President of India has promulgated the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance 2018, which was cleared by the Narendra Modi Cabinet on Saturday. The ordinance provides for confiscating properties and assets of economic offenders like loan defaulters who flee the country. President Ram Nath Kovind promulgated the Ordinance within hours of it being cleared by the Cabinet headed by PM Modi. The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on March 12 but could not be passed due to the logjam in Parliament over various issues. This ordinance will now allow government agencies to confiscate properties of fugitives like Nirav Modi or Vijay Mallya who have left the country to avoid facing criminal prosecution.
The provisions of the ordinance will apply to economic offenders, who refuse to return, persons against whom an arrest warrant has been issued for a scheduled offence as well as willful bank loan defaulters with outstanding of over Rs 100 crore. It provides for confiscating assets even without a conviction and paying off lenders by selling off the fugitive’s properties. Such economic offenders will be tried under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The ordinance defines a fugitive economic offender as a person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued for committing offence like counterfeiting government stamps or currency, cheque dishonour for insufficiency of funds, money laundering, and transactions defrauding creditors.
According to the ordinance, a director or deputy director (appointed under the PMLA, 2002) may file an application before a special court (designated under the 2002 Act) to declare a person as a fugitive economic offender. The application will have information about his whereabouts, a list of properties believed to be proceeds of a crime for which confiscation is sought, a list of benami properties or foreign properties for which confiscation is sought, and a list of persons having an interest in these properties.
On Saturday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh defended the Modi government in the Rs 11,400-crore PNB fraud and revealed the plan to present a fugitive economic offenders bill before the Parliament. As the Opposition attacked the Modi government on one of India’s biggest public sector bank scam, Rajnath Singh said the bill would seize the offenders’ property. “Opposition levels allegations that some Nirav & Choksi fled abroad. We will present a fugitive economic offenders bill before Parliament. Earlier offenders used to flee abroad & their properties weren’t seized. Now their properties will be seized under the bill,” ANI quoted Singh as saying.