Committed to stamping out corruption: PM

18 November 2015

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said his government has taken significant steps to check corruption and black money in a short span of time.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Sixth Global Focal Point Conference on Asset Recovery, in New Delhi, on 18  November 2015  

He was speaking at the inauguration of the 6th Global Focal Point Conference on Asset Recovery and 21st Conference of CBI and State ACB and vigilance Bureaus in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Over 100 delegates from 50 countries are participating in the conference.

The PM said that to build a prosperous India it is essential to fight relentlessly against corruption, and  the government's recent initiatives have brought transparency in the system and restored people's faith in government.

He said the day his government assumed office, it constituted a special investigation team under the supervision of the Supreme Court to look into the issue.

Enumerating other steps initiated by the government, Modi said India had entered into agreements with many countries for exchanging real time information on black money, and  signed the Inter Government Agreement with the United States to implement the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. This Agreement enables Indian tax authorities to receive financial account information of Indians from foreign countries on an automatic basis.

A comprehensive and deterrent law, the Black Money Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets and Imposition of Tax Act has been enacted, with stringent penalties and prosecution.

He said the government has also introduced a provision under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act for restitution of assets. This will enable millions of poor investors who have lost money in ponzi schemes to recover a part of their hard earned money.

"I hope that the partnership between Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) and Interpol will help in confiscation and recovery of stolen assets. I am sure that this conference will go a long way towards elimination of safe havens for the proceeds of corruption and help build secure exchange platforms for recovery of criminal assets, Modi added.

According to the prime minister recent initiatives to curb systemic corruption such as auction of coal blocks and FM Radio spectrum have eliminated the element of discretion in allocation of national resources. This has brought about transparency in the system and restored faith of the citizens in Government. It has also generated substantial revenues for the government which will benefit the people.

Modi was particular critical of trans-border criminal activities.

"Globalization of organized crime poses a major threat to economies throughout the world. It is a well-known fact that 'dirty money' drives out 'good money.' Organized crime can hamper investment and economic growth. It can also infiltrate or acquire control of large sectors of the economy. Illicit funding promotes organized criminal activities like drug trafficking, arms trafficking, human trafficking, and terrorism.

"The dastardly acts committed in Paris a few days ago are a grim reminder that terrorists have shown remarkable flexibility and adaptability in meeting their funding requirements. They derive funding from a variety of criminal activities, which include smuggling of narcotics, bank robbery, vehicle theft, fake currency, or from state sponsors and activities in failed states."

He stressed disrupting fund flows constrains the capabilities of terrorists and reduces their ability to execute attacks. This involves putting in place both systemic safeguards, and targeted economic sanctions based on credible counter-terrorism intelligence.

Targeting proceeds of crime is an important element in this fight against crime. Hence, there is an imperative need to focus our efforts to enhance international cooperation in the field of Asset Recovery for fighting crime, corruption and terrorism., he said.

Confiscation of property of offenders not only serves as punishment but also discourages commission of crime. In fact, Kautilya in his 'Artha Shastra,' had suggested confiscation of illegitimate income as one of the punishments for corrupt public servants.

The prime minister further said economic liberalism and globalisation have drastically increased the ability to park profits of crime anywhere in the world.

"Today proceeds of crime can be routed through dozens of countries within seconds. By a process of layering the money-trail can be concealed. Investigation agencies are limited by national boundaries.

"Our Government is committed to the implementation of a uniform global standard on Automatic Exchange of Information, on a fully reciprocal basis. This will facilitate exchange of information regarding persons who have concealed their money in offshore financial centres and tax havens."

He complemented Interpol for playing an increasingly active role in asset recovery.

"I am told that the excellent and proactive cooperation between Interpol and Indian investigative agencies has resulted in tracking down many fugitive criminals and their subsequent deportation or extradition.

"I would like this cooperation to deepen. CBI has been effectively assisting the Indian law enforcement agencies and their foreign counterparts in overcoming the barriers that complicate the exchange of investigative information.

On the need for return of illegal money stashed abroad, the prime minister said the proceeds of crime and corruption are stolen assets that do not belong to the country where they are stashed.

"They rightfully belong to the citizens of the country from which they have been plundered. I am well aware of the legal and procedural obstacles and differences in evidentiary standards that hinder Asset Recovery. To overcome these challenges, police and law enforcement agencies should forge formal and informal relationships. "

He expressed his hope the conference would provide the assembled delegates  an opportunity to devise proper procedures and protocols to quicken the process of tracing, identifying, restraining, confiscating, and repatriating the stolen assets.

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