India’s relentless pursuit of fugitive offenders is garnering international attention, with an almost fivefold increase in the number of offenders brought back to the country over the last nine years. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) recently disclosed that 19 fugitives have been repatriated in 2023 alone, up from 27 in 2022 and 18 in 2021. This significant surge marks a substantial departure from the past when an average of only four offenders were repatriated from 2004 to 2014.

The Modi Government’s Determined Efforts

Minister of State for Personnel, Dr. Jitendra Singh, attributes this remarkable success to the unwavering commitment of the Narendra Modi government in pursuing fugitive offenders. He stated, “This is the direct result of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s strict policy of zero tolerance against corruption, both on the domestic and international fronts, ever since he took charge in May 2014. There has been a quantum jump in extradition of criminals and fugitives in recent years, especially after India hosted the 90th Interpol General Assembly in October 2022.”

Notably, those repatriated individuals facing the Indian legal system include primarily economic offenders, but many also stand accused of heinous crimes such as rape and murder.

Enhanced International Cooperation

Government officials believe that the increase in the repatriation of criminals and fugitives is the direct result of improved policing cooperation between various countries. This cooperation was streamlined following India’s hosting of the 90th Interpol General Assembly in the preceding year.

According to government data, India has successfully brought back assets worth $1.8 billion that were allegedly siphoned off by economic fugitives, acting under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Since 2014, assets worth $12 billion have been attached, as stated by Dr. Singh.

India’s Agenda on the Global Stage

India is not content with its domestic achievements and aims to push the issue of economic offenders and safe havens onto the global stage, particularly at the upcoming G20 summit. Prime Minister Modi presented a comprehensive 9-point agenda at the 2018 meeting, which was further discussed during this year’s Anti-Corruption Working Group sessions in Gurugram, Kolkata, and Rishikesh. The key points of the agenda include:

Agenda Items Description
1. Strong and Active Cooperation Encouraging G20 countries to work comprehensively and efficiently against fugitive economic offenders.
2. Legal Process Cooperation Enhancing cooperation in legal processes, including freezing proceeds of crime, early repatriation of offenders, and efficient return of crime-related assets.
3. Denying Safe Havens Forming a mechanism to deny entry and safe havens to fugitive economic offenders across G20 countries.
4. UN Convention Principles Fully and effectively implementing principles of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNOTC), especially related to “International Cooperation.”
5. FATF Involvement Calling upon FATF (Financial Action Task Force) to prioritize and focus on establishing international cooperation for timely and comprehensive information exchange among competent authorities and Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs).
6. Standard Definitions Tasking FATF to formulate a standard definition of fugitive economic offenders.
7. Standardized Procedures Urging FATF to develop commonly agreed and standardized procedures for identification, extradition, and judicial proceedings for dealing with fugitive economic offenders, providing guidance to G20 countries within the bounds of their domestic law.
8. Sharing Best Practices Establishing a common platform for sharing experiences and best practices, including successful extradition cases and identifying gaps in existing extradition and legal assistance systems.
9. Tax Debt Recovery Initiating work within the G20 forum to locate properties of economic offenders who owe tax debts in their country of residence for recovery.

Indian government officials are optimistic about the attention and momentum that the issue of fugitive economic offenders has gained ahead of the 2023 G20 summit. Dr. Singh stated, “There is forward movement in areas like action-oriented high-level principles on three priority areas, namely, law enforcement cooperation through information sharing, strengthening asset recovery mechanisms, and enhancing the integrity and effectiveness of anti-corruption authorities.”

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