Our Bureau

New Delhi, Jan 31

THE Ministry of Company Affairs (MCA) has constituted a committee to look into ways to strengthen the Serious Frauds Investigation Office (SFIO), including whether the investigating body should be given more teeth.

"The committee would see what should be the mechanism and how SFIO could be strengthened further," Mr Prem Chand Gupta, Minister for Company Affairs said.

While stating that so far the performance of the SFIO has been `good', the Minister said the committee report could be expected in three months. The committee is to be headed by the former RBI Deputy Governor, Mr Vepa Kamesam.

Other members include former Company Affairs Secretary, Mr M.M.K. Sardana, Mr B. Swarup of the Settlement Commission, representatives from the CBI and the Law Ministry.

The committee would examine the progress made by SFIO and also see whether it needs to be further empowered on the lines of other investigating agencies, the Minister said. The SFIO has been seeking more powers on the ground that frauds investigated by it were criminal offences, and company law was a regulatory law, where the criminal angle was defused.

SFIO was set up in 2003 as a specialised multi-disciplinary organisation to deal with cases of serious corporate frauds. It has experts from the financial sector, capital market, accountancy, forensic audit, taxation, law, information technology, company law, customs and investigation.

These experts have been taken from various organisations such as banks, Securities & Exchange Board of India, the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General and other organisations and departments of the Government.

The J.J. Irani Committee on Company Law had also recommended that the SFIO be strengthened while retaining its multi-disciplinary character. In addition to investigation, there is also a need to take up prosecution in certain cases in the appropriate forum, the committee added.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 1, 2006)
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