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June 3, 2024

Court Criticizes Agencies’ Delay in Arrests of High-Profile Economic Offenders

In a recent court ruling, a special judge criticized Indian investigative agencies for their delayed actions, which allowed notorious businessmen such as Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, and Vijay Mallya to escape the country. Special Judge M.G. Deshpande made these remarks while hearing a petition from Vyomesh Shah, an accused under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), seeking relaxation in his bail conditions.

On May 29, the court approved Shah’s plea to remove the requirement of obtaining the court’s prior permission for international travel. This decision, detailed in a recently made available order, came despite objections from the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The ED had contended that granting Shah’s request could result in a situation similar to that of Modi, Mallya, and Choksi, all of whom are involved in significant financial frauds and have evaded Indian law by fleeing abroad.

Judge Deshpande refuted the ED’s argument, stating, “I thoughtfully examined this argument and felt it necessary to note that all these persons fled because of the failure of the investigating agencies concerned in not arresting them at the proper time.” He emphasized that Shah’s case differed substantially from those of Modi, Mallya, and Choksi. Unlike these high-profile fugitives, Shah complied with the court’s directives, responded to summons, secured bail, and consistently sought permission for overseas travel.

Nirav Modi, a prominent diamantaire, and his uncle Mehul Choksi, are central figures in the multi-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam. Modi is currently incarcerated in the UK, while Choksi resides in Antigua. Vijay Mallya, who faces charges in an over 900-crore loan fraud case, is also in the UK. The ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) are probing these cases.

The court’s observations underscore a critical issue in India’s handling of economic offenses. High-profile criminals have managed to exploit procedural delays and inefficiencies within investigative agencies to avoid justice. This criticism is not new but gains renewed significance given the international ramifications of these cases.

Modi, Choksi, and Mallya represent a broader problem of economic offenders exploiting systemic loopholes. The PNB scam, one of India’s largest banking frauds, saw Modi and Choksi allegedly siphoning off billions through fraudulent letters of undertaking. Similarly, Mallya’s case involves defaulting on substantial loans from various banks, leading to significant financial losses.

The court’s decision to ease Shah’s travel restrictions while emphasizing the failures of investigative bodies highlights a need for reform. Ensuring timely arrests and efficient legal procedures can prevent economic offenders from fleeing and subsequently complicating extradition efforts. The Indian legal system must address these lapses to restore faith in its ability to manage high-stakes financial crimes.

In conclusion, while the court’s ruling offers relief to Vyomesh Shah, it simultaneously casts a spotlight on the shortcomings of India’s investigative framework in dealing with high-profile economic offenses. The departure of Modi, Mallya, and Choksi from the country was facilitated by the very agencies tasked with preventing such escapes, indicating an urgent need for procedural and structural reforms within these bodies. Effective law enforcement is crucial to maintaining the integrity of India’s financial system and ensuring that justice is both timely and effective.

Read more latest news on R9 News

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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