05 October 2009

Serious Fraud Investigation Office – tries seriousness

The SFIO was thought of as an apex investigative body for complex economic offenses when it was set up in 2003. Unfortunately, it can do little investigation or enforcement. In a story in Mint their complete irrelevance is demonstrated:

SFIO has written to capital markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), Reserve Bank of India (RBI), National Securities Depository Ltd (NSDL) and the income-tax (I-T) investigation wing in Ahmedabad and Mumbai asking for records of all the proceedings against key financiers and entities allegedly involved in the scam.

“In August, we wrote to the agencies asking for all the information required for investigation, but no one has responded yet,” said the official. He declined to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

Government agencies don’t even bother to reply to its queries. It has been given no real investigative powers by parliament and tries to eke out some meager powers under a dozen sections of the Companies Act. If someone refuses to co-operate, it can do little except make a reference to other agencies of the government/statutory bodies – the same agencies which refuse to even reply to their letter of August.

It is time to either empower it or to disband it.

See the Mint piece here.

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