Parliament nod to amend money laundering law

A bill, which seeks to enlarge the definition of money laundering offences and could help curb funding of terrorist operations, was approved by Parliament Monday.

Last Updated: Dec 17, 2012, 22:34 PM IST

New Delhi: A bill, which seeks to enlarge the definition of money laundering offences and could help curb funding of terrorist operations, was approved by Parliament Monday.

The Prevention of Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha by voice vote after Finance Minister P Chidambaram emphasised the need for continuously amending the law to meet new challenges.

The Bill, passed by Lok Sabha last month, seeks to remove existing limit of Rs 5 lakh as fine under the Act.

Replying to the debate on the bill, Chidambaram said the Bill will help in checking money-laundering and especially funding for terrorist operations.

Clarifying members' doubts, he said the Bill was first approved in 2002 and after that twice it has been brought for amendment.

In the next 3-4 years, there can be more amendments made to it as it is an evolving issue to meet the challenges, he said.

Moving the bill for consideration, he said, "It (money laundering) is a global menace. We have amended the bill in 2005 and 2009. India is a member of Financial Action Task Force on money laundering and we need to amend our law to align with the international law."

The government has accepted all the 18 recommendations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, he said.

Chidambaram said the bill seeks to enlarge definition of offence of money laundering to include activities like concealment, acquisition, possession and use of proceeds of crime as criminal activities.

Chidambaram said the proposed amendment also seeks to introduce the concept of 'corresponding law' to link the provisions of Indian law with the laws of foreign countries.

It proposes to make provision for attachment and confiscation of the proceeds of crime even if there is no conviction so long as it is proved that offence of money laundering has taken place and property in question is involved in money-laundering.

It also provides for appeal against the orders of the Appellate Tribunal directly to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, initiating the debate on the bill, Prakash Javadekar (BJP) said, "I am happy that major recommendations made by a Parliamentary Committee have been accepted."

He, however, said, "The legislation alone will not help. Whether it is implemented or not, that need to be seen. ... Officers will work arbitrarily. Without political will, black money cannot be brought back.

"Every time amendments are made as per global standards, but practically you do not have any plan...If you want to do something, start with HSBC within a month," he demanded.

The BJP member said the government has taken no action against HSBC despite clear case of money-laundering, while the US has levied penalty on HSBC and the company has agreed to pay USD 1.9 billion.

"List of HSBC account holders has been given. Government is hiding it. What action has been taken? No case of money laundering can be clear than this. America is alert but we are sleeping in India," he said.

Besides HSBC, the US has imposed a fine of USD 667 million on Standard Chartered, ING Bank (USD 619 million), Credit Suisse (USD 536 million), Royal Bank of Scotland (USD 500 million) and Barclay among others, he claimed.