Asserting that the world is presently combating the serious emerging challenges of fugitive economic offenders, Union Minister Jitendra Singh has called for a strong and aligned international cooperation on deportation of such persons.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) special session on Friday night, he said, as the accused take shelter in foreign countries and conceal the proceeds of crime in complex legal structures over different countries and jurisdictions, the gaps and weaknesses of international cooperation in this area are fully exploited by them to their advantage.
His assertion assumes significance as India is making continuous efforts to bring back fugitive diamantaire Mehul Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi to face law in the country.
Both had fled India in January 2018, weeks before the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam involving ₹13,500 crore rocked the Indian banking industry.
India is making efforts to deport Choksi from Antigua and extradite Nirav Modi from London. The Indian government is also trying to bring back another fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya from London.
Mallya is accused in bank loan default case of over ₹9,000 crore involving his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
Addressing the session on ‘challenges and measures to fight corruption', Mr. Singh said India has made it clear that the world is presently combatting another serious emerging challenge of fugitive economic offenders. "India’s Fugitive Economic Offenders Act 2018 law empowers authorities for non-conviction-based attachment and confiscation of proceeds of crime and properties and assets of a ‘fugitive economic offender’ – against whom a warrant for arrest in relation to a scheduled offence has been issued by any court in India and who has left the country to avoid criminal prosecution or judicial processes,” he said Mr. Singh, the Minister of State for Personnel, called for a strong and aligned international cooperation on the return of persons and assets sought for such offences, consistent with international obligations and domestic legal systems, an official statement issued on Saturday said.
The minister conveyed India's appreciation to all the countries who are taking the fight ahead in the right direction by intensifying efforts, sustaining political commitment and decisive action, at all levels, against preventing and combating corruption by way of endorsing the United Nations political declaration.
He said India provides mutual legal assistance to widest possible extent and it has strengthened its domestic law and widened the scope for international co-operation with contracting states and international organisations, said the statement issued by the Personnel Ministry.
Mr. Singh said the in addition to the suffering the pandemic has created unprecedented short term and long-term challenges in fighting corruption at all levels.
"It is significantly undermining the distribution of resources, jeopardising our rebuilding processes, extending economic pressure and delaying the return to growth," he said.
The minister added that this is indeed the most appropriate time to come together and strengthen international cooperation to prevent and combat corruption.
Mr. Singh said that the UNGA session is happening at a time when coronavirus is testing "our patience and testing the limits of all of us at enduring misery".
He said that in the days gone by, to tide over this crisis, India has coordinated with experts from myriad sectors and according priority to expert and scientific advice for sustainable COVID-19 management.
The country is also implementing the five-fold strategy of testing, tracing, treatment, COVID-appropriate behaviour, and vaccination which can help in curbing the spread of the pandemic, Mr. Singh said.
The minister also said that India is already on a digital-first trajectory with one of the highest volumes of digital transactions in the world.
The programmatic use of technology has helped in increasing the speed and the plugging of leakages in delivering benefits to the citizens of India, he said.
With the linking of biometric ID cards with bank accounts and mobile phones, the system has provided a safety net to millions of citizens in need of immediate monetary aid through ubiquitous direct transfer of benefits, Mr. Singh said.
The minister said that from filling healthcare needs in remote areas to building data-driven public policy on health, the use of technology fulfils many roles and most importantly in some of the most remote areas of the country.
While concluding his address, Mr. Singh wished for a steadfast and strong commitment to combating the menace of corruption especially in these times of crisis and reiterated that India is ready to work with other countries, civil society and international organisations to accelerate the implementation of anti-corruption principles.