India is seeking a consensus among G20 nations against fugitive economic offenders to ensure their faster extradition and asset recovery, Union Minister Jitendra Singh said on Friday. Ahead of the crucial G20 anti-corruption ministerial meeting in Kolkata on Saturday, he said economic offences have been a problem faced by many, especially when offenders flee the country's jurisdiction.

"All countries are on the same page as far extradition of fugitive economic offenders and recovery of assets are concerned. But different laws of the member states pose a problem in this regard," said Singh, the Union Minister of State for Personnel.

He said a consensus is already in the offing for collective and joint action to deal with this menace and deployment of sophisticated technologies is also being explored.

"India is seeking consensus among G20 nations against fugitive economic offenders to ensure faster extradition of fugitive economic offenders and recovery of assets, both domestically as well as abroad," the minister said.

Singh said the G20 meeting is making a good headway for a consensual approach.

It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had presented a nine-point programme to take action against fugitive economic offenders during his address at the G20 Summit in Argentina, he said. Singh said that PM Modi had highlighted the importance of cooperation in legal processes such as effective freezing of the proceeds of crime, early return of the offenders and efficient repatriation of the proceeds of crime. Singh pointed out that India had organised a unique event on exploring G20's perspective on synergizing gender sensitivity with anti-corruption strategies on the sidelines of the second G20 ACWG meeting in Uttarakhand's Rishikesh in May this year.

"The event saw the participation of high-level keynote speakers and governmental experts of G20 countries and international organisations," he said.

Referring to a series of G20 meetings in various parts of the country, including in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern states among others, Singh said it gave India an opportunity to showcase not only its prowess in various sectors but also demonstrated the varied culture and diversity of India.

The third and final meeting of the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group (ACWG) is being held from August 9 to 11 in Kolkata. Over 154 delegates from G20 members, 10 invitee countries and various international organisations are attending the meeting.

It will be followed by the G20 anti-corruption ministerial meeting on 12th August 2023, which will be chaired by Jitendra Singh. This will be the second-ever ministerial meeting of the G20 ACWG and the first in-person ACWG ministerial meeting.

The deliberations at the level of ministers will impart a further political impetus to combating corruption as ACWG plays a crucial role in leading international efforts to fight corruption, the statement said.

Under India's G20 presidency, ACWG has been able to achieve significant progress on anti-corruption cooperation regarding action against fugitive economic offenders and return of assets, guided by the nine-point agenda for action against fugitive economic offences and asset recovery, presented by the prime minister to G20 nations in 2018, it said.

During the first and second ACWG meetings held in Gurugram and Rishikesh respectively, India was able to forge a consensus in G20 to advance the international anti-corruption agenda by finalising three outcome documents on important and sensitive issues, the statement said.

These pragmatic and action-oriented highest-level commitments will contribute towards prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of corruption offences, strengthening domestic anti-corruption institutional frameworks, extradition of fugitive economic offenders and recovery of assets of such offenders from foreign jurisdictions, it added.

ACWG is also focusing on the role of audit institutions in tackling corruption, the statement said.

Earlier this year, side events were organised to highlight the use of information and communication technologies in reducing corruption in public administration and delivery of public services and gender-related issues of corruption, it added.

The discussion on the impact of corruption on women initiated under India's presidency will generate further concrete action towards collective initiatives for adopting gender-sensitive and gender-responsive approaches in anti-corruption strategies, the statement said.

"The third ACWG meeting in Kolkata will give direction to the future work of ACWG and further the commitments made on law enforcement cooperation, strengthening asset recovery mechanisms, and enhancing integrity and effectiveness of anti-corruption authorities during India's G20 presidency," it said.