India approves bill to prosecute fugitive tycoons

  • New law aims to prosecute fugitives and seize their assets
  • Dozens of people accused of bank frauds fled country
  • Banks stressed assets amount to more than $150 billion

NEW DELH: Indian authorities will be able to seize assets of fugitives accused of crimes involving sums over 1 billion rupees ($14 million), under a bill approved by the lower house of parliament on Thursday.

The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill law, which will go to the upper house and the president in the coming days, is part of a push to prosecute dozens of people have fled in the last four years, including tycoon Vijay Mallya, who faces the seizure of his British assets in an alleged bank fraud.

India wants to extradite the 62-year-old from Britain to face charges of fraud as a group of Indian banks seek to recover more than $1 billion of loans granted to his defunct Kingfisher Airlines. Mallya has denied the allegations.

The new law will replace an executive order introduced by the government to initiate the seizure of assets of jewellers Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, who fled after being accused of an over $2 billion bank fraud, which they deny.

"This is the first time in the last 70 years after independence that such a strict measure has been taken against fugitive economic offenders," Piyush Goyal, interim finance minister, told parliament.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, aiming a second term in elections early next year, faces criticism for not taking tough measures against persons involved in bank frauds as stressed assets in banks have built up to more than $150 billion.