Mumbai: Even as harsh legislation to punish fugitive economic offenders takes shape in India, 31 individuals accused of fraud and economic offences are holed up abroad, the ministry of external affairs said.
These people, pursued by the Enforcement Directorate and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in 15 different cases, collectively owe Rs40,000 crore to banks and public institutions in India, calculations by Mint based on investigation reports show.
The list of fugitives that the ministry of external affairs submitted in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday includes some well-known names and some not-so-well-known ones.
Among the prominent names are Vijay Mallya, who owes Rs9,000 crore to a group of banks; Nirav Modi, his wife Ami Modi, brother Neeshal Modi and uncle Mehul Choksi, named in the Rs12,636 crore fraud at Punjab National Bank; Jatin Mehta of Winsome Diamonds, who owes Rs7,000 crore; former Indian Premier League chief Lalit Modi, accused of siphoning off Rs125 crore from the country’s cricket board; and Sterling Biotech Ltd directors Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara and Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara for alleged bank fraud of Rs5,000 crore.
The lesser-known names include Ashish Jobanputra, promoter of Mumbai-based textile export firm ABC Cotspin Pvt. Ltd, and his wife in a bill discounting scam of Rs770 crore and for causing losses to banks; diamond trader Ritesh Jain for illegally taking Rs1,500 crore out of the country; Surender Singh, Angad Singh and Harsahib Singh for cheating and criminal conspiracy; Sabhya Seth for a fraud of Rs390 crore against Oriental Bank of Commerce; and Sanjay Bhandari for alleged tax evasion of Rs150 crore.
Nilesh Parekh of Shree Ganesh Jewellery House, accused of a Rs2,223 crore bank fraud, was arrested by CBI last year after he returned to India to join the probe. There is little to no public information about the rest of the names.
Experts say legislation to target fugitive economic offenders will act as a deterrent and could also be used retrospectively in some cases.
“The legislation is not stated to be retrospective in effect. However, directors of enforcement agencies can make an application to declare any person as ‘fugitive economic offender’ if the said person either leaves or has left India in order to avoid criminal prosecution and/or refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution. Therefore, for offences which have been committed even before the coming into effect of the bill as an Act, it will help," said Sandeep Grover, partner at law firm IndusLaw.
An earlier graphic accompanying this story should have identified Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, Vijay Mallya, Sanjay Bhandari and Lalit Modi as among economic offenders who have fled the country.