Corporate fraud investigation body SFIO will have the power to carry out arrests once the new Companies Bill is passed by Parliament, Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily said today.
"SFIO shall have the power to arrest in respect of certain offences of the Bill which attract the punishment for fraud. Those offences shall be cognisable and the persons accused of any such offence shall be released on bail subject to certain conditions provided in the relevant clause in the Bill," Moily said at an Assocham conference here.
He added that the government expects the Companies Bill, 2011, to "modernise, reform and clean up the corporate sector".
The Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) shot into prominence after the government asked it to investigate the multi-crore rupee Satyam accounting fraud.
The decision to give legal and statutory powers to the SFIO by including appropriate provisions in the new Companies Bill -- which is awaiting Parliament's nod -- is in line with the recommendations of the Vepa Kamesan Committee on strengthening the SFIO. The SFIO is under the administrative control of the Corporate Affairs Ministry.
The eight-member committee had suggested that the SFIO should be given exclusive jurisdiction to probe and prosecute entities involved in financial frauds, as well as probe cases related to erring entities/individuals like chartered accountants and company secretaries.
The committee is of the opinion that the power of search and seizure and attachment should be entrusted to the SFIO, as available with the Income Tax authorities, Customs Department, Enforcement Directorate, etc.
It has also suggested that the SFIO should be empowered to take up cases suo moto and even on source-based information if a fraud has been committed.
The committee has also recommended that the SFIO should have the flexibility to outsource the services of experts like chartered accountants, legal experts, etc, and officers joining the investigating agency on deputation should be ensured protection of their existing pay and allowances.
However, the minister noted that in the present day, with technology is getting more and more sophisticated, the present laws will have to get more stringent in order to be able to combat financial fraud.
SFIO is investigating 12 cases at the moment, including one against erstwhile retail chain Subhiksha.