Financial crimes: enforcement officers stagger under investigation load

New Delhi, Oct 4 (IANS) The Enforcement Directorate (ED), the country’s premier agency probing financial crimes, is grappling with a staggering manpower cruch: 1,382 of its sanctioned 2,064 posts are lying vacant. This means that 682 of its officers deal with at least nine cases each – with 6,102 cases pending investigation, enquiries reveal.

The ED deals with cases registered under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) and the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA). Of the pending cases, 1,326 relate to the PMLA, the most effective legislation for dealing with black money, and 4,776 to FEMA.

The directorate’s internal assessment report accessed by IANS shows an average disposal rate of just 2.8 PMLA and FEMA cases per officer in 2014-15. And the pendency of such cases per officer is a staggering 8.9.

If the existing number of investigating officers were to complete the PMLA and FEMA cases, it would take approximately four years.

However, this pendency could go up further as the Special Investigation Team on black money has been referring more and more cases to the ED for registration under the PMLA.

Among cases that are now being taken up under the PMLA are those originating from mining scams and some from the list of Indians holding accounts in tax havens.

Officials concede that PMLA is the most effective legislation on black money issues, especially since it provides for easy attachment of assets linked to money laundering.

The internal assessment report shows that ED registered 1,093 cases under the two acts between March 31, 2014, and March 31, 2015. In 2013-2014, the number of cases registered cases were 1,250 and between 2012 and 2013 a total of 1,943 cases were registered.

However, ED’s investigating officers could dispose off 1,918 cases in 2014-15, 1,953 cases in 2013-14 and 1,571 cases 2012-13.

In 2013-14, Rs. 3,657 crore worth of assets were under attachment.

The Central Board of Excise and Customs has recently written to the government to give powers under the PMLA to the Customs Department and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI).

The ED has also been facing in recent months a fresh exodus of officials on deputation because of their eagerness to return to their parent cadres for career progression.

At the same time, the ED arrested 52 people between March 31, 2012, and March 31, 2015.

(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at rajnish.s@ians.in)

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