Economic offenders: Centre sets up committee to prevent escape by defaulters

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New Delhi | Published: July 18, 2018 4:55:53 AM

High-level panel to look for ways to raise a red flag at earliest before a defaulter can attempt to flee.

The panel had its first meeting on Tuesday. (Reuters)

The government has set up a high-level panel headed by financial services secretary Rajiv Kumar to effect an overhaul of existing laws to prevent defaulting promoters from fleeing the country, just like Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallya, according to official sources.

The panel had its first meeting on Tuesday, said the sources. It discussed dual-citizenship (of some of the defaulters) and strengthening and streamlining of systems so that economic offenders do not run away to escape the law of the land, sources said. Already in April, the government brought in an Ordinance to attach assets of fugitive economic offenders. The ordinance will make it easier to attach all the assets of economic offenders fleeing India to escape the reach of law, even without a conviction. Offences with a value of Rs 100 crore or more will be covered by it.

Apart from Kumar, the panel comprises senior officials of the Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation, Intelligence Bureau, Reserve Bank of India and ministries of home and external affairs.

The move came amid apprehensions that dubious promoters are currently able to flee the country immediately after defaulting, as the process of declaring them criminals takes time. So, the panel under Kumar is looking at ways through which a red flag could be raised at the earliest, before any such defaulter can attempt to run away, sources said. The issue of dual citizenship came in for discussion, as in some countries, citizenship can be easily obtained. The defaulters are taking advantage of this and are settling down there after committing fraud here.

Soon after the over $2 billion fraud case at the Punjab National Bank involving jewellers Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, the finance ministry asked public sector banks to collect passport details of all those borrowers who have borrowed loans of more than Rs 50 crore. Both Nirav Modi and Choksi had already fled India before the fraud came to light. Earlier, Mallya had fled the country in March 2016 after defaulting on loans given to Kingfisher Airlines.

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