In a major breakthrough in the Rs 5000-crore Sterling Biotech case, authorities in the UAE have detained Nitin Sandesara, the owner of the Gujarat-based pharma group. The company is accused of willfully defaulting on bank loans worth Rs 5,383 crore and diverting them for personal purposes of the owners.
Sources in the CBI and the ED have told The Indian Express that Sandesara has been detained in Dubai on a request from the two agencies and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is now in touch with the authorities concerned there to bring him back.
Nitin and his brother Chetan are key accused in the case and have been absconding since registration of the case by the CBI in December 2016. The ED is probing a case of money laundering against the company and the Sandesaras.
The CBI and the ED had recently learnt of Nitin’s location in Dubai and subsequently alerted authorities concerned in UAE through official channels, said sources.
The CBI has booked Vadodara-based Sterling Biotech, its directors Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara, Dipti Chetan Sandesara, Rajbhushan Omprakash Dixit, Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara and Vilas Joshi, chartered accountant Hemant Hathi, former Andhra Bank director Anup Garg and some unidentified persons in connection with the case.
It is alleged that the company took loans of over Rs 5,000 crore from a consortium led by Andhra Bank which later turned into non-performing assets.
The ED has arrested a few people in connection with this case, including Delhi-based businessman Gagan Dhawan, former Andhra Bank director Anup Garg and Sterling Biotech Ltd director Rajbhhushan Dixit.
Multiple prosecution complaints or charge sheets have also been filed by it before a special court here. The ED had also attached assets worth over Rs 4,700 crore of the pharmaceutical firm in June this year.
According to the ED, the Sandesaras had set up more than 300 shell and benami companies in India and abroad which were used to divert and misutilise loan funds.
“The modus operandi of money laundering involved formation of shell/benami companies, manipulating balance sheets, inflating turnovers, insider shares trading, etc. These shell and benami companies were controlled by the Sandesaras through dummy directors, who were/are employees of the various companies of Sterling Group. Bogus sale/purchase was shown between the benami companies and the Sterling group of companies in order to divert loan funds and inflate turnovers to obtain further loans from banks,” an ED statement had said earlier.