From 2004-05 to 2016-17, the SFIO examined 312 cases, out of which, 186 cases were registered during 2014-15 to 2016-17.
The Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) has completed investigations into more cases in the past two years than it did in the last 15 years, according to SFIO’s data. The improved performance of the agency is being attributed to the recent reforms in the SFIO.
The structural reforms in the functioning of the SFIO include the power to make arrests and a provision of setting up of a special court that can deal with economic offenders. The power to make arrests has been given to the SFIO, but the special court has not been set up yet, according to a recent reply filed by the Ministry of Finance in Lok Sabha.
The SFIO completed investigations into 186 cases in the last two years, from 2014-15 to 2016-17, including the Saradha chit fund scam case in West Bengal. This amounts to nearly 70% of the total cases the agency has investigated so far in the last 15 years.
The SFIO looks into cases of serious economic fraud involving huge money, and functions under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA). From 2004-05 to 2016-17, the SFIO has examined 312 cases, out of which, 186 cases were registered during 2014-15 to 2016-17. A senior SFIO official told The Sunday Guardian: “Cases of corporate fraud have been rapidly detected over the past few years and one important reason for this is the strict action of the government. Also, improved efficiency of the SFIO has led to more cases coming to the SFIO.”
The SFIO had investigated only 80 cases in the course of one decade, but as per recent SFIO data, in 2017 alone, the agency has almost completed investigations into 86 cases related to serious economic fraud.
The same SFIO official cited above said: “Last year, the incumbent government at the Centre had introduced certain structural changes, including giving power to arrest, which led the agency to achieve extraordinary improvement. In the last one decade from 2004-2014, the agency had registered only 80 cases and the pace of investigation was slow too, but now it has become a major investigative agency.”
Another SFIO official told The Sunday Guardian: “The SFIO came into limelight after the investigation into the Sarada chit fund scam. The SFIO’s investigation in the Saradha scam led to conviction of the owners of the Saradha group of companies. Ever since the Saradha scam investigation, the SFIO has been witnessing an increased number of cases for investigation.”
“More than half of the total cases which were taken up by the SFIO for investigation are related to ponzi schemes,” a source close to MCA told The Sunday Guardian.
“Last year, on 18 December, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs had ordered the SFIO to launch an investigation against a set of 63 companies for allegedly indulging in illegal money pooling activities, or ponzi schemes. The count of such companies is increasing and there is an urgent need for investigation and action. Therefore, the cases are being forwarded to the SFIO which has prominence in such investigation,” a MCA official told The Sunday Guardian.
“Although the investigation in the cases related to the chit fund scam is time consuming as it involves the jurisdiction of several states and requires proper coordination, the SFIO is doing an efficient job,” the same MCA official said.