Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday expressed hope that an informal agreement reached among enforcement agencies of G20 countries will strengthen drive against fugitive economic offenders.

Addressing the Anti-Corruption Ministerial Meet of G20 under India’s presidency taking place in Kolkata, he said that he had presented a nine-point agenda for action against Fugitive Economic Offenders and for Asset Recovery at the G20 Summit in 2018. He noted that decisive steps are being taken by this group, and appreciated the action-oriented High-Level Principles on three priority areas: Law enforcement cooperation through information sharing; Strengthening asset recovery mechanisms; and Enhancing integrity and effectiveness of anti-corruption authorities.

“I am glad that an understanding has been reached on informal cooperation between law enforcement agencies. It will prevent criminals from exploiting legal loopholes when crossing borders. Timely asset tracing and identification of proceeds of crime is equally important,” he said. Further, he stressed the need to encourage countries to enhance their domestic asset recovery mechanisms.

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“To expedite the recovery of foreign assets, G20 countries can set an example by using non-conviction-based confiscation. This will ensure swift return and extradition of criminals after due judicial process. And, it will send a strong signal about our joint fight against corruption,” he said.

Talking about India’s initiative against fugitive economic offenders, he said the government enacted the Economic Offenders Act in 2018. Since then, “we have recovered assets worth over $1.8 billion from economic offenders and fugitives. Under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, our government has attached assets worth more than $12 billion since 2014,” he said.

Highlighting his government’s focus on fighting corruption, Modi said that India has a strict policy of zero tolerance against corruption, adding that India has been leveraging technology and e-governance to create a transparent and accountable ecosystem.

“Leakages and gaps in welfare schemes and government projects are being plugged. Hundreds of million people in India have received direct benefit transfers into their bank accounts. The value of such transfers has crossed $360 billion, saving us over $33 billion,” he said.

The Prime Minister informed the gathering about measures for ease of doing business. Automation and digitisation of government services have eliminated rent-seeking opportunities. “Our Government e-Marketplace, or GeM portal, has brought greater transparency in government procurement,” he said.

Talking about further action in the fight against corruption, Modi said as G20, collective efforts can significantly support the fight against corruption. “We can make a difference through enhanced international cooperation and implementation of robust measures that address the root causes of corruption. We also need to give due regard to the role of audit institutions in our fight against corruption. Above all, besides strengthening our administrative and legal systems, we must foster a culture of ethics and integrity in our value systems. Only by doing so, can we lay the foundation for a just and sustainable society,” he said.

Invoking Rabindranath Tagore, Prime Minister said that in his writings, the Nobel Laureate had cautioned against greed, because it prevents realising the truth. “The ancient Indian Upanishads also wished for ‘Ma Gridha’, meaning ‘’let there be no greed’,” he said.

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