New Delhi: With the likes of PNB scam accused Mehul Choksi managing to evade the law of land for years, India has said that varying legal systems in different countries are being exploited by fugitives and underlined that the “gaps and weaknesses” need to be plugged through closer global cooperation.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Special Session on Challenges and Measures to fight Corruption, Minister for Department of Personnel Jitendra Singh pressed for a strong and aligned global cooperation to combat the challenge of ‘Fugitive Economic Offenders and Assets’.
“As the accused take shelter in foreign countries and conceal the proceeds of crime in complex legal structures spread over different countries and jurisdictions, the gaps and weaknesses of international cooperation in this area are fully exploited by such fugitives to take their advantage,” he said.
He called for a strong and aligned international cooperation on the return of persons and assets sought for such offences, consistent with international obligations and domestic legal systems.
Singh’s ministry is in-charge of CBI which is currently making efforts to bring home fugitives like Choksi but is facing difficulties on account of laws in the countries where they have taken shelter after allegedly committing scams in India.
Choksi is currently in Dominica but the Indian law agencies are unable to get hold of him, with a team just returning home empty handed, because of laws prevailing there.
Singh conveyed India’s appreciation to all the countries who are taking this fight ahead in the right direction by intensifying efforts, sustaining political commitment and decisive action, at all levels, against preventing and combating corruption by way of endorsing the United Nations Political declaration.
“India provides Mutual Legal Assistance to widest possible extent and it has strengthened its domestic law and widened the scope for International Co-operation with Contracting States and International organizations,” he said.
UNGA Session is happening at a time when Corona is testing our patience and testing the limits of all of us at enduring misery, he said adding, “In the days gone by, to tide over this crisis, India has coordinated with experts from myriad sectors and according priority to expert and scientific advice for sustainable COVID-19 management.”
“The country is also implementing the five-fold strategy of Testing, Tracing, Treatment, Covid-appropriate behaviour, and Vaccination which can help in curbing the spread of the Pandemic,” he added.
In addition to the suffering the pandemic has created unprecedented short term and long-term challenges in fighting corruption at all levels, he said.
It is significantly undermining the distribution of resources, jeopardizing our rebuilding processes, extending economic pressure and delaying the return to growth, he said adding, “This is indeed the most appropriate time to come together and strengthen international cooperation to prevent and combat corruption.”
“India has a zero-tolerance policy towards corruption and the moto of the Government of India, given by the Prime Minister, is ‘minimum government, maximum governance with emphasis on transparency and citizen centricity, ” the Minister said.
With an aim of decentralizing decision-making and bridging communities with local governments across cities and towns, innovative solutions are being implemented using digital tools in all sectors affecting the livelihoods of citizens.
India is already on a digital-first trajectory with one of the highest volumes of digital transactions in the world. The programmatic use of technology has helped in increasing the speed and the plugging of leakages in delivering benefits to the citizens of India, he said.
“From filling healthcare needs in remote areas to building data-driven public policy on health, the use of technology fulfils many roles and most importantly in some of the most remote areas of the country,” Singh said.
While concluding his address, he wished for a steadfast and strong commitment to combating the menace of corruption especially in these times of crisis and reiterated that India is ready to work with other countries, civil society and international organizations to accelerate the implementation of anti-corruption principles.