‘Striking at root cause of crime’

Abhayanand, who took over as Bihar police chief in August 2011, has been looking at some out-of-the-box ideas to curb crime, corruption and black money. In this interview, he explains his theory: if economic crimes are committed for sake of money, and criminals get away with it by exploiting loopholes, then the solution is in making crime unprofitable. He has found his way to do so – by confiscating the property of the criminals and corrupt 
bureaucrats. Edited excerpts:

Bihar police is putting emphasis on confiscation of property. How is that 
so important in curbing crime?

Attaching property will make a huge impact because it is ultimately going to check the flow of black money. Several new forms of crime are being committed, generating only black money. If the property is confiscated, criminals will have this fear that neither they nor their family can enjoy the fruits of their illegal income. That is why we are concentrating on this way.

Legally speaking, is confiscation of property a simple and easy option? You cannot take it to speedy trial. How many criminals’ properties have you been able to confiscate?

You are right. Confiscation is not easy as it has to pass through the judicial trial and we have to collect solid evidence against those who have acquired massive wealth through illegal means. Investigation is totally based on documents and the process of trial is slow. Thus, it requires a great endeavour to complete the exercise. That is why we are converging whatever laws we have to attach the property. Our government has requested the finance ministry to allow the state police to deal with money laundering cases involving up to Rs 5 crore. As per my knowledge, talks are in the final stage. So Bihar is soon going to be the first state to directly deal with money laundering cases up to a limit. So far, we have been helping the enforcement directorate (ED) officially in curbing the flow of black money. Recently, we were able to get a muscleman’s property worth crores attached with the help of ED. I am sure that the kind of success we are having with the Economic Offence Unit (EOU) will help curb the flow of black money.

Why do you then need a permission from the finance ministry to check money laundering?

As per law, money laundering is the subject in the union list and ED deals with it with using Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). ED is a competent central agency and they normally catch the big fishes worth several hundred or thousands of crores. But in the state their infrastructure is small. That’s why we need the power to deal with smaller cases. I am sure that it will make a huge impact.

What other steps are you taking to curb the flow of black money? Are there sufficient legal provisions for the purpose?

We are converging various provision of the laws. We are using another important law – which was not being used so far: the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance, 1944. Application of this Act has worked beautifully. (With the use of it,) the hooch trade has stopped to a large extent. We have used the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act against drug peddlers and the Unlawful Activities 
(prevention) Act (UAPA) against Naxalites. They say the whole system is corrupt and mislead people but we show their real character to people.

But unless a large number of big fish are caught and punished, the message may not go our far and wide. Our slogan is vyakti se sampatti (moving the target from person to property). It has started paying off. We are hitting at their psyche now but still we have long way to go. Earlier criminals thought that even if they were convicted, money they made would remain with their kin – although the conviction rate too was very low.

But if a criminal knows that whatever money he has made out of the crime will be confiscated and will not go to his family in case he is jailed, then he will think twice. If this motivation is curbed by confiscation of property then definitely a strong message will go out in society. Earlier, conviction alone was not a sufficient disincentive, as the process was too slow and there was no law applied to confiscate property.

The properties of several high ranking government officers have been confiscated. Do you think it has sounded the alarm bell among corrupt officials?

Certainly, such incidents create panic among corrupt officials and raise the level of people’s confidence but we have to do a lot more in this regard. It has hardly been a year or two and confiscation of property requires a lot more exercise. We are getting tip-offs from people against corrupt babus but we never disclose their names. In such cases, we make ourselves the complainant (before the ED, and not the person who tipped us off).

Criminals are now using technology. Has police geared itself up to tackle hi-tech crimes?
I don’t believe criminals are smarter than the police. Let them use whatever techniques they adopt to commit crime. The administration needs to have a will to nab them. I do agree with you that updating police training is required from time to time and we are doing it. EOU officers were trained by CBI. The Bihar government made all efforts to get these cops trained – from lower-level officials to those at the level of SP (superintendent of police).

Some states like Delhi follow a system in which economic offences involving amounts over a certain limit go the economic offence wing. Have you set such a demarcation for the EOU?

We are not interested in the amount, unlike some other states. We want to strike at the root. Wherever black money is coming from, we are trying to curb the source. That is why the amount of demarcation is not that important.

But how can you know all the sources of black money when it is so common in currency that most people are not even aware of it?

Black money inflow abets crime and we are targeting its major routes. Let me tell you that the Bihar government is working on it. A software application called Big Data Analytic has been developed by IT experts. It easily identifies, with scientific proof, the area generating black money and the IT department of Bihar is already using it. Big Data Analytic is generally used by corporate companies but Bihar is the first state to use it for governance. We call it projective mathematical modelling.

On arrangement with Governance Now
Pankaj Kumar

Pankaj Kumar

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