In an attempt to stop defaulting promoters from fleeing the country, the government has set up a high-level committee headed by Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Kumar to look at various measures and suggest changes in existing laws, according to official sources.
The focus will be on those promoters who hold citizenship of any other country so that episodes of Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallya are not repeated. The panel had its first meeting which discussed duel citizenship and strengthening and streamlining of system so that economic offenders do not run away from the country, sources said.
Other members of the high-level panel include representatives from Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation, Intelligence Bureau, and Reserve Bank of India. Besides, senior officials of Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs are also part of the committee.
It takes a lot of time to declare a defaulter a criminal in the present system. So, the committee is looking at the way in which red flag could be raised, sources said. Various suggestions have been received including renunciation of Indian citizenship and changes in the domestic law to deal with such kind of erring promoters.
Soon after the emergence of USD 2 billion PNB fraud case and the perpetrator Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi fleeing the country, 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. The banks have also been asked to introduce modifications in the loan application form issued to a borrower to incorporate his or her passport details.
Liquor baron Vijay Mallya had fled the country in March 2016 after defaulting on loans given to Kingfisher Airlines, which was promoted by his group.
Moreover, the government has come out with the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018 giving authorities powers to attach and confiscate the proceeds of crime and properties of economic offenders like bank fraudsters or loan defaulters fleeing the country.
The law is aimed at quickly recovering losses to exchequer or public sector banks in cases of frauds like the alleged USD 2 billion fraud by fugitive jeweller Nirav Modi The absence of such offenders from Indian courts hampers investigation and wastes court time and undermines the rule of law. The existing civil and criminal provisions in law are not entirely adequate to deal with the severity of the problem.
Union Minister Arun Jaitley had, in his Budget for 2018-19, said the government was considering to bring in a new law to confiscate assets of such absconders The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018 was introduced in the Lok Sabha (Lower House) on March 12, but couldn’t be taken up due to logjam in Parliament over different issues.
As the government could not pass the bill, it framed an ordinance which was approved by the President.
The Ordinance makes provisions for Special Court under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002 to declare a person as a Fugitive Economic Offender.