In a bid to deter loan defaulters from fleeing the country, the Union Cabinet approved the introduction of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018, in Parliament which would allow the government to seize all domestic assets of a person deemed to be a fugitive economic offender.
The Cabinet also approved the creation of a National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA), the posts of a Chairperson, three full-time members, and one Secretary for the proposed authority.
“In Budget 2017-18, it was announced that fugitive economic offenders would have their assets seized,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley pointed out at a press conference after the meeting.
“The Cabinet has approved the draft Bill and it will be introduced in Parliament in the remaining portion of the Budget session,” he said. “There will be a list of scheduled offences along with the Bill.”
“If the person commits an offence on the list, and a competent court has issued an arrest warrant, and the person leaves the country to avoid this, the court can deem him a fugitive economic offender.”
According to the Finance Minister, the government would be able to seize all their domestic assets, not just those that were the proceeds of the crime.
The Bill also has a provision for the seizure of their foreign assets, but this would require the cooperation of the relevant country, he said.
“We will try to make sure this Bill is passed as expeditiously as possible because we cannot allow people to make a mockery of the law, that you first indulge in loot, and then refuse to submit to the jurisdiction of our legal system,” Mr. Jaitley said.
The government in a release said that if at any point of time in the course of the proceedings prior to the declaration of the person as a fugitive economic offender, he returns to India and submits to the appropriate court, proceedings under the proposed Act would cease by law.
The proposed NFRA is to act as an independent regulator for the auditing profession, in line with one of the key changes that has been made in the Companies Act, 2013, Mr. Jaitley said.