Opinion

Wealthy & Politicians seek dual passports to escape

India has strict laws prohibiting its citizens from holding dual passports of two different countries – that is India and any other country in Europe, Scandinavia or North America.

TN Ashok

Some countries allow dual citizenship of two or more countries for their denizens. And some countries totally prohibit it calling for total allegiance to their country of residence and have declared dual passports as illegal.

India has strict laws prohibiting its citizens from holding dual passports of two different countries – that is India and any other country in Europe, Scandinavia or North America.

Yet recently we have found that two extremely influential wealthy individuals who allegedly defrauded Indian state owned banks to the extent of billions of dollars using loop holes in banking laws and when the fraud was detected quietly slipped out of the country or simply fled the country dodging high security alerts against them.

Indian prosecuting agenies like the CBI and Intelligence Bureau are having a tough time battling international regulations to repatriate them and launch trial proceedings against them in Indian courts.

A case in point is the successive flight of flamboyant airline owner , King of good times, Vijay mallya, having a good time in London with his British passport in his sprawling estate, having closed his sexy airline with the most beautiful air hostesses after defrauding a consortium of public sector banks to the extent of about rest 10,000 crore ( about 1538 million USD) which includes not paying fuel charges to public sector oil companies, parking charges to airports authority for his fleet of jets, and denying salaries and wages to his high profile pilots and in-flight crew whom he carefully selected from the best of airlines in the country, most of them are on the streets with huge bills to pay for their purchases and running their homes.

Another flamboyant personality is the leading diamantirine Nirav Modi who has defrauded the state owned Punjab National Bank of about Rs 13,000 crore (about Rs 8450 million USD) and fled the country quietly under the so called vigilant eyes of the intelligence agencies.

According to international media report he fled to Belgium on a Portuguese passport, a known tax haven and refuge for notorious mobster of Mumbai Chota Rajan with his film start consort Monica, a one time associate of international gangster Dawood Ibrahim, who is an Indian but parading as a businessman on different passport s fleeting between safe houses in Pakistan and Dubai.

Dawood is allegedly responsible for master minding several bomb blasts in India in the 90s and also the dreaded 26/11 massacre in Mumbai. Several heads are wanted in this connection and are all hiding in different countries on fake or duplicate passports.

How does one do this? We have to examine Indian laws on passports against the international laws on passports to get a clearer understanding of how it’s so easy to defraud “the temples of modern india” as the principal architect of India called PSUs , the then PM of free India Jawaharlal Nehru. It’s his forethought that insulated India against the Iceland triggered Lehman brother’s global recession.

‘The very principles on which Nehru built the country as per the prevailing situation then ( no laissez faire economy) mixed economy stood the country well against the vicissitudes of international monetary, trade and currency volatility.

But free trade, global village concepts have made international commerce easier and also opened the flood gates to misuse by fraudsters, mobsters, and international terrorists harboured by our so called friendly neighbour Pakistan which itself is in utter turmoil’s with trouble from the hinterlands of Sind and Baluchistan which want to separate and balkanise the country.

Dual citizenship is a term that has confused more than provided any clarity to citizens especially the Non Resident Indians who repatriate huge amounts of money to India like their Chinese counterparts from USA and Europe back to fill the federal banks kitties with foreign exchange to balance their trade.

There is a huge difference between holding dual citizenships with Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) certificate introduced by the the Govt of India. The Indian constitution does not allow dual citizenship or simultaneously holding two passports of different countries.

Automatic loss of Indian citizenship covered in Section 9(1) of the Citizenship act 1955, provides that any
citizen of India, who by naturalisation or registration acquires the citizenship of another country, shall cease to be a citizen of India.” This means you have to give up Indian passport and citizenship to the nearest Indian embassy, should you become citizen of foreign country. A seal is affixed at the back of passport mentioning it is a punishable offence under Indian Passports Act of 1957, of any possession of Indian passport, should the passport holder acquires nationality of another country..

So in this context what is the status of Vijay Mallya and diamantirine Niriv Modi and his co-host Mehul Choksi, who claims total innocence? How did they get their dual passport beating Indian laws, how did the foreign countries involved issue them passports knowing Indian laws?

Let’s look at another aspect of government’s liberalisation scheme for NRIs. The Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) scheme was introduced by Indian Govt in 2005, to encourage Indians, who have gained citizenships abroad in terms of easing travel restrictions and aid the economic development of India. This scheme is just like “Permanent Residence” or “Green Card “given in India, referential matter from laws and media reports indicate.

If you are already a Person of Indian origin (POI) and have taken up citizenship abroad, you can take up benefits of OCI scheme, which gives you same travel and residence privileges like other Indians, but you are not allowed to vote and take up jobs in Government sector. You will also be free from reporting requirements to police regarding the length of your stay. . You are eligible to apply for Indian citizenship if you have acquired OCI for 5 years and you have legally resided in India at least for a year.

Now let’s look at how many countries allow dual citizenship that fraudsters, monsters and tricky
politicians take advantage of. Dual citizenships have been in much of the debate over the years. Much of the developed countries such as US, UK, Australia, Switzerland have no restrictions on holding dual nationality, whereas countries such as Singapore, Austria, India, and

Saudi Arabia do not “recognize” or “restrict” dual citizenships, leading to automatic
loss of citizenship upon acquiring other. Some countries such as Austria, Spain may still grant dual citizenships upon certain special conditions under exceptional cases like celebrities. The following are list of countries which allow and do not allow dual citizenships.

One should bear in mind that that many countries amend nationality laws from time to time and is subjected to change: Where dual citizenship is now allowed. Australia, Barbados, Belgium, Bangladesh, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland, South Korea, South Africa (requires permission) , Egypt(requires prior permission), Greece, France, Finland, Germany (requires prior permission), Iraq, Italy, Israel, Ireland, Poland, Hungary, Iceland, Kenya, Sweden, Slovenia, Syria, Serbia, Armenia, Thailand, Lebanon, Malta, Spain ( allows only with certain Latin American countries), Tonga, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka (by retention), Pakistan (accepts only with 16 countries), Portugal, Turkey (requires permission)

Let’s see where dual citizenship is not allowed, meaning, its no- no. Andorra, Austria, Azerbaijan Burma, Bahrain, Botswana, Japan, China ,Czech Republic, Fiji,India,Indonesia, Ecuador, Estonia, Iran, Papua New Guinea, Brunei, Japan, Peru, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Chile, Kiribati, Korea, Kuwait, Latvia, Singapore, Slovakia, Ecuador, Lithuania, Solomon Islands ,Fiji ,Malaysia, Mauritius, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Romania, Mexico, Nepal, Venezuela, Norway, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, no dual citizenship here i these countries.

 

Where do Nirav and Vijay Mallya stand against these international restrictions?

Sources say India has asked the UK home office if Nirav Modi has been granted an ‘ILR’ (indefinite leave to remain) in that country, media reports say. An ILR is like a long-term visa that grants a person legal protection against deportation. Nirav Modi’s status in the UK would, with an ILR, would require India to file for extradition under the bilateral treaty.

 

India has also asked the UK to clarify whether alleged fugitive jeweller Nirav Modi has permission to stay indefinitely in that country even as the Enforcement Directorate plans to file extradition requests with multiple countries. The same sources claim that India has asked the UK home office if Modi has been granted an ‘ILR’ (indefinite leave to remain).

That would be a critical piece of the jigsaw puzzle, media reports say. An ILR is like a long-term visa that grants a person legal protection against deportation.

Modi’s status in the UK would, with an ILR, be similar to that of Vijay Mallya, and would require India to file for extradition under the bilateral treaty. If, however, Modi has not been granted such a privilege, India would be on much stronger ground to seek his deportation.

The UK has not yet responded to the query, it is learnt. The government had revoked Modi’s passport in February. However, he had more than one passport and is believed to have travelled to the UK and Belgium on a different Indian passport. His second passport has also been revoked.

Now how did he get another Indian passport? The authorities are foxed. Nirav Modi does not qualify for asylum, sources said, because India doesn’t feature in the list of countries which persecute their citizens enabling them to seek asylum in other countries.

T N Ashok is a Corporate Consultant, Resident Editor and Writer of Economic Affairs.

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