Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday said Enforcement Directorate should be extremely careful while choosing cases for prosecution under the money laundering law and focus its energies on important ones.
"A word of caution is necessary. We must be extremely selective in deciding which cases to prosecute under the money laundering law. Otherwise, we will be overwhelmed with cases that we would be required to prosecute," he said addressing officials of Enforcement Directorate (ED).
Stating that money laundering was behind crimes like human and drug trafficking and terror financing, the minister called for greater international cooperation to deal with the menace.
"It is important that agencies across the world cooperate, share technology, share information and chase the offenders," Chidambaram said.
Extending support to the measures taken by ED to come down heavily on violators of foreign exchange laws, the minister said there was a need to strengthen the directorate and fill up the positions lying vacant for long.
"I would like to appeal to the CVC, UPSC and Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to please understand the gravity of situation arising out of these vacancies and work harder and quicker to ensure that these vacancies are filled," Chidambaram said.
The biggest limitation is number of people attached to the department, he said, adding against the sanctioned strength of 2,064, it has in place 660 people, leaving 1,404 vacancies.
Elaborating on the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the Minister said: "The PMLA rests on the principle of a predicate crime and when there is an offence which has anything that has to do with proceeds of crime.
"Even if you are acquitted in the trial of a predicate crime, it is possible that you could be convicted of an offence under money laundering," he said.
The minister further said that theft, breach of trust, misappropriation and cheating could throw up cases of money laundering, but the ED must carefully select the cases for prosecution.