India sought international cooperation and help at the G-20 summit happening at Argentina to deal with the cases of fugitive economic offenders. The decision came in the midst of an increase in criticism against the Modi government, for its inability to handle high profile economic offenders, fleeing the country. The issue had been used by the opposition parties as a major argument against the incumbent government in the election rallies. Though the government had been vocal about the issue, statistics suggest that 31 offenders have already fled the country thereby validating the claim of the opposition that there is a significant gap between government rhetoric and action.
Narendra Modi had earlier presented a 9 point plan at the Argentina G-20 summit, which calls forth cooperation among countries to deal with economic offenders.“Cooperation in legal processes such as effective freezing of the proceeds of crime, early return of the offenders and efficient repatriation of the proceeds of crime should be enhanced and streamlined,” the agenda read. “Principles of United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNOTC), especially related to ‘International Cooperation’ should be fully and effectively implemented,” it said. The statistics produced by the National Crime Reports Bureau (NCRB) in 2017 suggest that the economic offences in India have increased by four folds within a year.
Fugitive Economic Offenders
Around 31 economic offenders have fled the country since 2015 according to the list given out by the External Affairs Ministry, Government of India. The list was revealed by the minister of external affairs Gen.V.K Singh, while answering a question posed by Prof. K V Thomas in July 2018. The list included prominent names such as Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.. There are a total of 36 cases that are booked against the 31 offenders amounting up to Rs. 40,000 crores looted from public sector institutions and banks in India. While Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is handling 23 cases, Enforcement Directorate (ED) is handling 13 of them.
Vijay Mallya is involved in a scam of Rs. 9000 crores, Nirav Modi and his family owe the Punjab National Bank Rs 12,636 crores and Jatin Mehta of winsome diamonds have a debt of Rs.7000 crores, Lalit Modi who is famous for the IPL scam has looted around 125 crores from BCCI. Other names in the list include Chetan and Nitin Sandesara (5000 crores), Ashish Jobhanputra (770 crores), Ritesh Jain (1500 crores).
The other names in the list are: Pushpesh Baid, Sunny Kalra, Sudhir Kumar Kalra, Aarti Kalra, Varsha Kalra, Umesh Parekh, Kamlesh Parekh, Ekalavya Garg, Vinay Mittal, Diptiben Sandesara, Neeshal Modi, Sabya Seth, Rajiv Goyal, Alka Goyal, Hitesh Patel, Mayuriben Patel, and Priti Jobanputra.
The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill
Meanwhile, the government has passed the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill. The Bill which was promised to be passed by the government soon after Vijay Mallya had fled the country, was only passed after Nirav Modi fled the country. The primary aim of the bill is to prevent such absconding of economic offenders. The bill also states that any offence which is more than 100 crores would fall into the purview of the bill.
The Bill also proposes that the court can issue a petition against the fugitive economic offender, who within six weeks, should present themselves before the court. A failure in doing the same would result in the confiscation of properties of the offender.