Who is a Fugitive Economic Offender (FEO) and what is the process of declaring a person as a FEO?

According to the Fugitive Economic Offenders (FEO) Act, 2018 as “any individual against whom a warrant for arrest in relation to a scheduled offence has been issued by any court in India, who has either left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution or being abroad, refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution”.

The Act aims to provide measures to deter fugitive economic offenders from evading laws in India by staying outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts, to preserve the sanctity of the rule of law in India and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. 

Passed by both the houses of the parliament in July 2018, the act replaced a similar ordinance passes in the same year. 

Such a law was required in India as certain economic offences like fraud, tax evasion, counterfeiting, money-laundering, etc were not being dealt with properly with the laws available like- The Prevention of Money-Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, The Benami Properties Transactions Act, 1988, The Companies Act, 2013 and sections of the Indian Penal Code,1860 and Code of Criminal procedure, 1973- were time-consuming and often led to roadblocks in investigations which impacted the health of Banks. 

A report by the Ministry of External Affairs in early 2018 stated that over 30 Indian businessmen, under investigation by the CBI and the ED, had absconded to avoid prosecution by the Indian Judicial system. Liquor baron Vijay Mallya and jeweller Nirav Modi, key accused in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case, are good examples of FEO.

To declare an individual a Fugitive Economic Offender (FEO) under the FEO Act, an application must be filed in a special court asking that an individual be declared an FEO. The application must contain the reasons for the belief that an individual is indeed a fugitive economic offender, any other information available as to the whereabouts of the said person and a list of properties or the value of such properties believed to be the proceeds of crime, etc.


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