Chidambaram offers to train States’ police in dealing with economic offences

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, has advised the Enforcement Directorate (ED) not to hurt legitimate economic activities and investment while probing money laundering cases.

The Minister’s advice comes a day after the Government informed the Rajya Sabha that on the basis of a reference received from Reserve Bank of India, the ED had taken appropriate action to investigate the alleged contravention of the provisions of Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 by retailer Bharti-Walmart.

“We must remember that economic activity must not be hindered by mindless investigation and prosecutions. All legitimate trading and investment activity must be fully respected and protected even while we investigate crimes involving money and laundering of money,” he said while inaugurating the annual day event of ED.

As the number of cases of economic offences is going up, Chidambaram had a word of caution for the agency.

“We must be extremely selective in deciding which cases to prosecute under the money laundering law. Otherwise, we will be overwhelmed with cases that we would be required to prosecute,” he added.

ED is part of the Department of Revenue in the Finance Ministry, and investigates and prosecute in matters related to contravention of the provisions of Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) and Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Offer to States

The Finance Minister offered States to get their police trained by the ED.

“We are willing to take officers from State Police and train them. They can then be entrusted with investigating economic offences related to money laundering,” he said.

However, he admitted that such a process could turn into reality only if there was cooperation between the Centre and States.

Extending support to the measures taken by ED to come down heavily on violators of foreign exchange laws, the Minister said there was a need to strengthen the directorate and fill up the positions lying vacant for long.

“I would like to appeal to the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission), UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) and the Department of Personnel and Training to please understand the gravity of situation arising out of these vacancies and work harder and quicker to ensure that these vacancies are filled,” Chidambaram said.

Against the sanctioned strength of 2,064, ED has in place 660 people, leaving 1,404 vacancies.

Without using the word corruption, he asked the officials to maintain highest integrity. “We cannot allow one black sheep in the organisation,” he added.

shishir.sinha@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on May 1, 2013)
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