The increase in complex white-collar crimes that require specialised investigation as well as the limited manpower in the economic offences wing (EOW) of the city police has prompted the top order of the force to decide that henceforth, EOW will investigate only cases offences involving ₹10 crore or more.
Crimes involving amounts under ₹10 crore will be investigated by police stations.
Police commissioner Hemant Nagrale issued a standing order to this effect on Monday and directed all the 100 police stations in Mumbai to follow the rule with immediate effect.
Cases involving amounts less than ₹10 crore but are complex in nature and require specialised skills in investigation as well as those having social/inter-state ramifications may be investigated by EOW with prior permission of the police commissioner. The local police need to send a proposal for such cases to the commissioner for an approval of transfer. The branch investigates banking frauds, company’s frauds, scams in government projects, multi-level marketing or investment frauds, housing frauds, general cheating, etc.
“Investigating officers of other cases of financial crimes at police stations seek timely guidance from senior EOW officers. The joint commissioner of police, EOW, may call for papers of any case of economic offences that is being investigated by the local police, for scrutiny and proper directions in investigation,” stated the commissioner’s order.
The complaints of such frauds of more than ₹10 crore should be sent to EOW office with the complainant to avoid delay after registration and transfer.
“The move intends to reduce the burden on the agency. EOW is a special investigation agency and it must only investigate cases that are complex in nature and require a dedicated probe. These would include cases of mass cheating, or those involving multiple companies, banks or state boundaries. Simple cheating or fraud cases can be probed at the police stations, even if it involves a huge amount,” said an EOW inspector.
In 2018, EOW – the specialised branch that investigates major financial scam and banking frauds – registered 123 cases involving financial frauds worth ₹4,072.11 crore. The department registered 110 cases involving white-collar crimes, worth ₹34,219.84 crore, in 2019. Subsequently, last year, amid the pandemic, EOW officers lodged 57 financial frauds cases worth ₹9,681.48 crore. This year, the wing has probed 58 such cases involving ₹2,223.90 crore.
Previously, police stations used to probe crimes below ₹6 crore.
Initially the amount to be probed by police stations was limited to ₹50 lakh as per a special order dated March 29, 2007. It was raised to ₹3 crore in May 2014, when EOW was a part of the Mumbai crime branch. The government separated EOW from the crime branch vide a government resolution dated May 27, 2016, and appointed a joint commissioner of police-rank Indian Police Service (IPS) officer to head the wing, like the crime branch.
“With the changing scenario in crimes, it is imperative to strengthen the economic offences wing in terms of efficiency and maintain quality standards by modifications in earlier orders in this regard. Mumbai being the financial capital of India is a perennial target of economic offenders. Due to rapid globalisation and advancement in technology, it has become feasible for offenders to commit financial crimes from any corner of the world. Also, the number of cases, quantum of property involved and impact of such crimes has increased significantly in the past few years,” a senior police officer said.
“Though the major portion of such cases is handled by the EOW effectively, to meet multifarious and increasing challenges in financial crimes, it needs to take up selected cases for in depth and scientific investigation. Following this guideline, the lower limit of cases to be taken up for investigation by EOW was raised to ₹6 crore on September 13, 2018. It has now been increased to ₹10 crore and above, the officer added.
According to an officer from the agency, the move will benefit victims of fraud up to ₹10 crore, as they no longer need to visit the EOW headquarters at Crawford Market but can instead lodge a complaint at the local police station and follow it up there.
“As Mumbai is the financial capital of the country, many corporate giants, financial institutes and banks are headquartered in the city. This is one of the reasons why fraudsters, especially those involved in Ponzi schemes, target the city,” said another police officer.
In April, Nagrale had transferred 13 police officers serving in EOW for over five years to side branches. More officers who served in the branch for more than four years are slated to be moved soon in the upcoming general transfers.