The Enforcement Directorate has claimed that the fraud committed by Sterling Biotech’s Sandesara brothers is much bigger than Nirav Modi’s PNB scam.
ANI has quoted ED officials stating that the Sterling Biotech Limited and its main promoters Nitin Sandesara, Chetan Sandesara and Deepti Sandesara have cheated a consortium of Indian banks to the tunes of Rs 14,000 crores. Nirav Modi’s PNB scam was estimated to be over 11,000 crores.
In the Sterling Biotech case, the ED has been probing the bank loan fraud case against the promoters of the Gujarat-based group. In August 2017, the ED had filed a case of money laundering against Sterling Biotech company, the same month in which the promoters of the group, Nitin and Chetan Sandesara, had fled the country.
The ED’s case had come after the CBI’s FIR against the promoters in October 2017.
During the investigation, it was reportedly revealed that the Sterling Biotech Limited (SBL) had obtained a loan worth over 9000 crores from foreign branches of Indian banks. The loans were taken in both Indian and foreign currencies. The loans were sanctioned by a consortium of banks namely UCO Bank, Allahabad Bank, Andhra Bank, State Bank of India, and Bank of India.
The promoters of SBL had allegedly then diverted the money raised from loans to non-mandated purposes, carefully layered and laundered through a number of domestic and offshore entities. The Sandesaras had not only siphoned off the funds to finance their Nigerian oil business but also for personal expenses, sources revealed.
Following the money trail, the ED had attached several offshore properties belonging to the promoters of SBL totalling over 9000 crores. The properties include four oil rigs and an oil field in Nigeria named OML 143, 4 ships namely Tulja Bhawani, Vrinda, Bhavya and Brahmani, that were registered in Panama under Atlantic Blue Water Services, a 200 Gulfstream aircraft registered in the USA, and residential property in London.
Meanwhile, with the ED attaching assets worth Rs 4700 crores belonging to the Sterling Biotech last year on December 7, the total attached properties stands at approximately Rs 13000 crore now. ED has further revealed that total outstanding dues to banks are over Rs 13,371 crore rupees.
Nitin Sandesara was apprehended by the Dubai police in August last year. He is reportedly known as a close aide of Congress leader Ahmed Patel. Hitesh Patel, another ain promoter of the SBL, was detained in the European country of Albania in March this year. A Red-Corner notice had been issued against him on the 11th of March. He has been detained by Albania’s National Crime Bureau-Tirana. He is also expected to be extradited to India soon.
The ED has been seeking to declare the Sandesara brothers fugitive under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act 2018. Congress leader Ahmed Patel’s name has also surfaced in the SBL scam case over connections to the Sandesara brothers and money kickback allegations.