India has enacted the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) that would allow government agencies to track funding of terrorist activities and greatly help intelligence agencies monitor the flow of funds often indicative of terrorist strikes. This legislation seems to be part of the government's strategy of zero-tolerance for terror.
Using the cover of this law, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has registered about dozen cases. The law allows the arrest and initiation of criminal action against individuals or organizations laundering money for crime. Prominent among those charged are suspected Al-Badr operatives charged with plotting to attack the Vidhana Soudha building in Bangalore. Among those who will be facing charges soon are suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba agents who were caught planting boxes in lunch boxes in Bangalore using substantial funds transferred though hawala transactions from Saudi Arabia.
If convicted under this law, those found guilty will have to pay minimum violation fines of Rs. 30 lakhs (USD 66,000) in addition to strict jail sentences. Best of all, PMLA provisions may be applied on even small hawala transactions for terrorists and "anti-national elements." With this law in place, money laundering cases, especially those for terrorism purposes, uncovered by the Narcotics Control Bureau, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, the Central Bureau of Investigation are now being funneled through the ED for swifter prosecution and closer of cases.
However, there is a lot of confusion in defining "anti-national elements" and often prosecutors have to prove to a judge that the offender is an "anti-national." It would also be useful for India to define an "anti-national" so judges will have an easier route to find these undesirable elements guilty. Such definition should definitely include illegal entry of citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, and Afghanistan, obtaining or possessing fake passports of any nation and especially Indian, prior criminal or conviction record, possession of narcotics, holding illegal or multiple names in bank accounts using counterfeit documents, counterfeit currency of any country or possession of tools to manufacture currency, and possession of multiple Income Tax cards.
Unfortunately, these measures by themselves cannot be an end in itself. Only recently, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) Director E.S.L. Narasimhan had asked for a slew of measures that will make the fight against terror more effective. These include legal protection for counter-terror personnel and a more comprehensive law to deal with terror. The Prevention of Terrorist Activities (POTA) enacted during the previous government had been scrapped by the present regime without a compensatory framework to address the serious nature of the threat.