April 21, 2018 / 2:15 PM / 6 months ago

India to seize property of super-rich fugitives: document

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian authorities will be empowered to seize properties of super-rich fugitives whose economic offences or crimes involve sums over 1 billion rupees ($15 million), according to a government document seen by Reuters on Saturday.

The move comes as the country reels from a series of banking scandals, including a $2 billion fraud at state-run Punjab National Bank (PNBK.NS) that was uncovered in February.

Mumbai jewelers Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi are prime suspects in the case and a special court of India’s Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) this month issued non-bailable warrants against them.

But authorities say the two men left the country before the fraud was uncovered. Modi and Choksi have denied the allegations against them.

Following an executive order, or ordinance, issued by the cabinet, investigating agencies will be able to confiscate the properties of fugitives in such cases.

“The ordinance is expected to re-establish the rule of law with respect to the fugitive economic offenders as they would be forced to return to India to face trial for scheduled offences,” the government document said.

According to the ordinance, a special court set up under anti-money laundering laws will have to declare a suspect fugitive before authorities can seize property.

India is seeking the extradition of Indian liquor and aviation tycoon Vijay Mallya over unpaid loans to his defunct Kingfisher Airlines after the businessman, co-owner of the Formula One Force India team, moved to Britain in March 2017.

Mallya’s lawyers argue that he is being used as a scapegoat by Indian politicians of all stripes to deflect public anger at the accumulation of bad debts by state-owned banks.

Reporting by C. K. Nayak in NEW DELHI and Abhirup Roy in MUMBAI; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Gareth Jones

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