New Delhi, Oct 26 (IANS) The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday urged the court to declare Gujarat-based businessmen Sandesara brothers as fugitives and permit it to confiscate their properties in India and abroad in connection with a Rs 8,100 crore taken by them and their pharmaceutical company from domestic and offshore branches of Indian banks in 2004-12.
Besides Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara and Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara, known as Sandesara brothers, the ED asked the court to issue an order declaring their relative Dipti Sandesara and an associate Hitesh Patel also as fugitives, an agency official said.
"We moved the court to declare the promoters of Sterling Biotech group as fugitives and confiscate their properties in India and abroad under section 4 of Fugitive Economic Offenders Act," said the official.
The ED said that the Sandesara brothers and Dipti were found to be residing in Nigeria while Hitesh was in the US. All the four accused are promoters of Sterling group and fled country to avoid criminal investigation and prosecution.
The agency said that the accused have incorporated more than 100 entities in various countries including the United Arab Emirates, the US, the UK, British Virgin Island, Mauritius, Barbados and Nigeria and that their main entities outside India include Richmond Overseas, Sunshine Trust Corp, SEEPCO BVI, SEEPCO Nigeria and Atlantic Blue Water Services Pvt Ltd.
"Investigation has revealed that Sandesara are engaged in oil business in Nigeria and are having numerous assets there. These include oil evacuation and transportation equipments such as oil blocks (Durga 1-4), barges and ships (Tulja Bhawani, Varinda). Some of their vessels are also registered in Panama.
"Besides, they have immovable properties in British Vergin Island. All these properties are sought to be confiscated under Fugitive Offenders Act. Further investigation is ongoing to identify their other properties abroad involved in money laundering," said the official.
The agency's move comes three days after it filed a chargesheet under the anti-money laundering law naming 191 accused and 184 companies of the Sterling Biotech group which includes Sterling Biotech Ltd, PMT Machines Ltd, Sterling SEZ and Infra Ltd, Sterling Port Ltd, Sterling Oil Resources Ltd and 179 shell companies.
The Sandesara brothers and one Rajbhushan Dixit, their chartered accountant Hemant Hathi and middlemen Gagan Dhawan were also named in the chargesheet.
Action under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Law shall be initiated soon against the Sandesara brothers and a Red Corner Notice shall be issued, said the ED.
The agency registered a money laundering case against the SBL group, Sandesara brothers and others in August 2017, days after a case of alleged bank fraud of Rs 5,700 crore was filed against them by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Investigation by the ED revealed that Sandesara brothers and others hatched a criminal conspiracy to cheat banks by manipulate figures in the balance sheets of their flagship companies to induce banks to sanction higher loans.
"After obtaining loans, the accused diverted them to non-mandated purposes through a web of shell companies. Thus, the loan funds were diverted, layered and laundered by the promoters for personal purposes. Total amount of loan fraud as on date is Rs 8,100 crore," said another ED official.
Loans to the tune of Rs 5,700 crore was disbursed by various banks from 2004 to 2012.
The ED said the banks have also declared the loans to the tune of Rs 8,100 crore as fraud (domestic loans Rs 3,675 crore and foreign loans Rs 4,425 crore).
The ED said it had arrested four persons in the case including a Delhi-based businessman-cum-middleman Gagan Dhawan, Ex-Director of Andhra Bank Anup Garg, Director of SBL R.B. Dixit and Ranjeet Malik, an aide to Dhawan.
The ED has so far attached assets to the tune of Rs 4,710 crore in the case.