Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill in News

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India proposed a new legislation to confiscate assets of offenders who leave the country to escape legal actions.

It is widely felt that the spectre of high-value economic offenders, absconding from India to defy the legal process, seriously undermines the rule of law in India. It is, therefore, felt necessary to provide an effective, expeditious and constitutionally permissible deterrent to ensure that such actions are curbed.

The finance ministry has prepared a draft Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill and sought public comments.

The draft, ‘The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2017,’seeks to deter economic offenders from evading the process of domestic law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian Courts.

As per the draft law, a ‘fugitive economic offender’, means any individual against whom an arrest warrant has been issued in relation to an economic offence and has subsequently left the country to evade criminal prosecution.

It further proposes that the burden of proof for establishing that an individual is a fugitive economic offender will be on the authorities.

Provisions of the proposed bill, once passed in the Parliament, will override other legislations dealing with economic offences.

Proposed bill provides for the setting up of special courts under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) that would have the power to declare a person as a fugitive economic offender.

The draft law also lays down the main consequences faced by an offender declared fugitive. These include confiscation of any property that is a proceed of crime of the accused or any other property owned by such a person in India. Another provision has been added that disallows the accused and his/her company from any civil claim. Such a step can be taken at the discretion of the courts and against such a person or a company where the accused is a promoter or holds a key managerial post.

If at any point of time, the said offender returns to India and surrenders before the appropriate jurisdictional court, proceedings under this Act would cease by law.

The confiscation order of the special court will, to the extent possible, identify the property that constitutes proceeds of crime which are to be confiscated and in case such properties cannot be identified, quantify the value of the proceeds of crime.

The proposed law is to provide for measures to deter economic offenders from evading the process of Indian law by remaining outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts.

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