Delhi mulls law to seize assets of rich fugitives

NEW DELHI • India is considering new measures to confiscate the assets of "big-time offenders" who flee abroad, the finance minister said yesterday, after tycoon Vijay Mallya left for Britain last year, owing more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion).

Mr Arun Jaitley flagged a proposal to seize the domestic holdings of criminals and financial offenders who have escaped the jurisdiction of Indian authorities.

"In the recent past, there have been instances of big-time offenders - including economic offenders - fleeing the country to escape the reach of the law. We have to ensure the law is allowed to take its course," he told Parliament.

"The law will have constitutional safeguards and the assets in India would stand confiscated until the person submits himself or herself to the law."

Mr Mallya has refused to return home from exile in England despite repeated efforts by India's financial crimes agency to question him.

An Indian court last month ordered a consortium of banks to start the process of recovering roughly US$1 billion in loans from Mr Mallya.

The government has been conducting a blitz on corruption and undeclared wealth to try to increase tax revenue and curb India's thriving underground economy.

Its shock decision in November to remove all high-value banknotes from circulation was meant to bring billions in undeclared money back into the formal system.

India is one of the world's most cash-intensive societies.

Corruption is endemic and strict tax laws encourage people to keep money off the official books.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2017, with the headline 'Delhi mulls law to seize assets of rich fugitives'. Print Edition | Subscribe