Fugitive offenders' assets can be seized

The Centre on Saturday approved a proposal to promulgate the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance 2018, which would empower the government to confiscate properties and assets of economic offenders like loan defaulters who flee the country.

“The ordinance is expected to re-establish the rule of law with respect to the fugitive economic offenders as they would be forced to return to India to face trial for scheduled offences. This would also help banks and other financial institutions to achieve higher recovery from financial defaults committed by such fugitive economic offenders, improving the financial health of such institutions,” said sources in the government.

Though the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on March 12, it could not be passed due to the logjam in Parliament over various issues.

The decision of promulgating the ordinance which was approved in the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeks to confiscate properties of economic offenders — like Nirav Modi — who have left the country to avoid prosecution. The ordinance will come into effect after the President’s assent.

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 wilful bank loan defaulters with outstanding of over Rs 100 crore.

It provides for confiscating assets even without conviction and paying off lenders by selling off the fugitive’s properties. Such economic offenders will be tried under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

A fugitive economic offender is one who has left the country to avoid prosecution, or refuses to return to face prosecution.

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