India: Airlines must share international passenger details with customs before departure

The move is aimed at preventing law offenders from fleeing the country

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A Staff Reporter

Published: Tue 9 Aug 2022, 6:14 PM

Last updated: Wed 10 Aug 2022, 9:10 AM

In a bid to prevent offenders including loan defaulters and others involved in financial scams from fleeing the country, the Indian government has asked airlines to share details about passengers travelling abroad at least 24 hours before their departure.

The information shared by airlines will be used by the newly set up National Customs Targeting Centre – Passenger (NCTC-P), which is part of the finance ministry, to conduct a comprehensive risk analysis of passengers.

“When passenger name record information relates to any offence under any law for the time being in force, at national or international level, the NCTC-P may share the relevant information on a case-by-case basis with other law enforcement agencies or government departments in India or any other country,” said the notification relating to the Passenger Name Record Information Regulations, 2022.

“Every aircraft operator shall transfer passenger name record information not later than twenty-four hours before the departure time; or at the departure time - wheels off,” said the notification.

Non-compliance of the regulation by an airline or agency will result in a penalty of Rs25,000 (but not more than Rs50,000), according to the notification. Issued on Monday by the under-secretary, anti-smuggling unit of the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, the regulation asserted that the passenger-related information would be “subject to the strict information privacy and protection in accordance with the provisions of any law for the time being in force.”

The key objective in implementing NCTC-P is to prevent bank defaulters from fleeing the country. The government had earlier informed parliament that nearly 40 economic offenders had fled India over the past five years. They include Vijay Mallya, now battling the Indian government’s efforts to get him extradited in British courts; Nirav Modi (who is in jail in the UK) and Mehul Choksi (who is in Dominica).

India will also share relevant information on a case-to-case basis with other law enforcement agencies in India or abroad.

Analysts believe the move is to proactively prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute offences under domestic or international laws. “The onus of timely collecting and sharing such information has been put on the airline operators,” said Abhishek Jain, partner, indirect tax, KPMG India. “While strict privacy guidelines have been stipulated under the said regulations, the government should ensure that the same are duly enforced to prevent unauthorised usage.”

The new rules are unlikely to lead to any delays at airports for normal passengers travelling abroad. But those who are facing government inquiries relating to their finances would need to provide a lot of explanation to officials at airports, before they are allowed to leave the country.


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