Now airlines are required to share PNR data of international passengers with the government

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New Delhi: Airlines are required to provide customs authorities with passengers’ PNR data 24 hours before departure of overseas flights to prevent lawbreakers from leaving the country.

According to a Treasury Department statement, Customs would use the data, which must include name, contact information and payment information, to better monitor and risk assess travelers entering or exiting the country.

The Passenger Name Record Information Regulations, 2022 were announced on August 8 by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), a department of the Treasury Department. These regulations aim to subject passengers to “risk analysis” to halt the economy and prevent other criminals from leaving the country, and to monitor illegal trade such as smuggling.

According to CBIC, The National Customs Targeting Center-Passenger would process data for law enforcement, government agencies and all other countries and for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of crimes under the Customs Act.

This joins the other 60 nations that receive PNR information from travelers from other countries.

Currently, airlines are only required to provide immigration authorities with the name, nationality and passport information of passengers in advance.

In the EU budget for 2017, the government proposed that airlines should release PNR information about passengers 24 hours in advance, but a legal framework for doing so was only put in place with the notification published on Monday.

“Each aircraft operator must transmit the passenger data records … of passengers that it has already collected in the ordinary course of business to the designated customs systems,” the regulations say, adding that each aircraft operator must apply for registration with customs for its implementation.

Passenger name, billing/payment information (credit card number), ticket issue date and intended travel, names of other passengers in the same PNR, itinerary for the PNR, contact information such as email ID, mobile phone number, travel agent information, baggage information and code share -Information (when one airline sells seats for another). This information must be shared by airlines for both incoming and outgoing international flights.

Although the rule did not specify why such information was sought, commentators claimed it was done to prevent defaulting bank loans from leaving the country to avoid prosecution.

A total of 38 white-collar criminals, including Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya and Mehul Choksi, have fled the country in the past five years, the government submitted to parliament. To recover Rs 9,000 crore of outstanding debt to his now defunct Kingfisher Airlines, industrialist and former MP Vijay Mallya left the country on 2 March 2016, the same day several public sector banks filed a debt recovery suit with the Debt Recovery Tribunal.

Mehul Choksi, one of the prime suspects in the alleged Rs 13,000 crore PNB loan fraud case, also evaded arrest by the ED and CBI and fled to Antigua & Barbuda.

“Each aircraft operator must transmit PNR data at least 24 hours before the time of departure; or at departure time – wheels off,” the regulation reads, adding that the information would be stored in customs systems for up to five years.

It also stated that the aircraft operators would have to pay a fine of between Rs 25,000 and Rs 50,000 for any breach of these restrictions.

In relation to sharing information with other law enforcement agencies or other states, the regulation said the National Customs Targeting Centre-Passenger may do so “on a case-by-case basis” with other law enforcement agencies or Indian or foreign government agencies.

According to Abhishek Jain, Partner, Indirect Tax at KPMG India, the aim of the above regulations is to collect relevant passenger data for risk analysis to proactively prevent, detect, investigate and/or prosecute violations of customs law or other national or international law.

“The responsibility for collecting and sharing such information in a timely manner has been placed on the airlines. Although strict privacy guidelines have been set out in the said regulations, the government should ensure that they are properly enforced to prevent unauthorized use,” Jain added.



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