ED moves court seeking ‘fugitive economic offender’ tag for Sterling Biotech promoters

Nitin Sandesara, one of the main accused in the case, is reportedly a close aide of senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel

The Enforcement Directorate has today moved to a special court seeking to get the owners of Gujarat-based Sterling Biotech group declared fugitive economic offenders under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2018. The promoters of the group are charged in an alleged Rs 8,100-crore bank loan fraud case.

The central agency has filed a plea before a special court of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), seeking to declare Nitin Sandesara, Chetan Sandesara, Dipti Sandesara and Hitesh Patel fugitives under Section 4 of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act. Nitin Sandesara was apprehended by the Dubai police in August. He is reportedly known as a close aide of Congress leader Ahmed Patel.

The ED had made similar pleas, under the new fugitive law, against Vijay Mallya and diamond jewelers Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi in separate bank loan money laundering probes.

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According to a senior official, “All the four are promoters of the Sterling Group and have fled the country to avoid criminal probe against them in a Rs 8,100-crore bank loan fraud involving a consortium of banks.”

The Enforcement Directorate has also sought confiscation of the assets worth over Rs 5,000 crore of the Vadodara-based business family as part of the action under the fugitive law.

The agency which soon plans to move for the extradition of the four imposters, had earlier in the week filed a fresh charge sheet in this case, under the PMLA and charged the Sandesaras and others with money laundering and siphoning bank loans. According to the prosecution complaint, the Sandesaras and others had hatched a criminal conspiracy to cheat banks.

Earlier reports had resurfaced alleging the involvement of senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, his son, Faisal Patel, and his son-in-law, Irfan Siddiqui in the same case. A few days later it was also reported how Dubai police managed to arrest Nitin Sandesara, an absconding director of a Gujarat based pharmaceutical company ‘Sterling Biotech’ and a close aide of Congress leader Ahmed Patel.

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