The Centre has issued a notification on certain changes in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), some of which tend to treat money laundering as a stand-alone crime and also expand the ambit of “proceeds of crime” to assets that may have been derived from any other criminal activity related to scheduled offences.
Under the Act, the Enforcement Directorate is empowered to conduct money laundering investigation.
The most crucial amendments are the deletion of provisos in sub-sections (1) of Section 17 (Search and Seizure) and Section 18 (Search of Persons), doing away with the pre-requisite of an FIR or chargesheet by other agencies that are authorised to probe the offences listed in the PMLA schedule.
Another important change is the insertion of an explanation in Section 44. “The jurisdiction of the Special Court, while dealing with the offence under this Act, during investigation, enquiry or trial under this Act, shall not be dependent upon any orders passed in respect of the scheduled offence, and the trial of both sets of offences by the same court shall not be construed as joint trial,” it says.
“The ED had faced several issues in this regard. The change is in line with the intent to treat proceedings under the Act as separate from those under the scheduled offences,” said an official.
Arrest without warrant
An explanation added to Section 45 clarifies that all PMLA offences will be cognisable and non-bailable. Therefore, ED officers are empowered to arrest an accused without warrant, subject to certain conditions.
The scope of “proceeds of crime”, under Section 2, has been expanded to empower the agency to act against even those properties which “may directly or indirectly be derived or obtained as a result of any criminal activity relatable to the scheduled offence”.
Another vital amendment to Section 3 makes concealment of proceeds of crime, possession, acquisition, use, projecting as untainted money, or claiming as untainted property as independent and complete offences under the Act. These activities have been explicitly declared to be continuing offences until such time a person is directly or indirectly “enjoying the proceeds of crime”.
Section 72 now includes a part, giving power to the Centre to set up an Inter-Ministerial Coordination Committee for inter-departmental and inter-agency coordination for operational and policy level cooperation, besides consultation with all stakeholders on anti-money laundering and counter-terror funding initiatives.