Lok Sabha approves changes to money laundering law

Money laundering

The Lok Sabha on Thursday approved changes to the law against money laundering to widen the definition of the offence and to remove the existing Rs 5 lakh cap on penalty.

The Bill, passed by a voice vote, sought to include cheating, concealment, acquisition and use of proceeds of crime as criminal activities for the purpose of money laundering.

Replying to a discussion on the Prevention of Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill, 2011, finance minister P Chidambaram said the amendments underscore India's commitment to strictly deal with money laundering, which has wide international ramifications.

Drafted in the backdrop of India becoming a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Bill also seeks to align domestic laws with international law by introducing the concept of 'corresponding law'. The removal of the penalty ceiling is in line with this objective.

The FATF is an inter governmental body of 34 member nations that works to combat money laundering, terrorism financing and other threats to the integrity of the international financial system. India became a member in 2010.

Amendments to the PMLA were introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2011 and was then referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance.

Chidambaram said that the government has accepted all the 18 recommendations of the panel. "I am very happy that there is complete unanimity on the Bill as well as amendments to the Bill," he said.

The Bill also 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 the property in question is involved in the act, the Statement of the Bill read.

Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam questioned whether the PMLA would apply to a minister or a former minister may favour a contractor using his position and later himself open a company, which gets funds from the same contractor as a return.

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