In the second week of this month, the CBI sent a team to conduct “investigation and searches” on premises of “several” businessmen in Vadodara, reportedly in connection with the Rs 5,000-crore Sterling Biotech case in which the agency is also probing its Special Director Rakesh Asthana.
According to sources in the CBI, “A team was in Vadodara from October 13 onward.” The names of those who were searched or investigated were not revealed. One of those said to have been questioned was Manish Thakkar of Varsha Caterers. When The Indian Express contacted Thakkar, he said, “I don’t want to say anything about this… unnecessarily.”
On September 21, the CBI had said it had informed the Central Vigilance Commission that it was investigating Asthana in six cases of corruption. Sources said the six cases include two FIRs related to the Vadodara-based Sterling Biotech case.
Asthana was Vadodara commissioner of police in 2008-11. In 2016, a pre-wedding party for Asthana’s daughter’s marriage was hosted at a farmhouse owned by Sterling Biotech, owned by Nitin Sandesara and his brother Chetan.
In October 2017, Sterling Biotech had taken loans of over Rs 5,383 crore from a consortium led by Andhra Bank, which later turned into non-performing assets. The CBI had booked Sterling Biotech, its directors Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara, Dipti Chetan Sandesara, Rajbhushan Omprakash Dixit, Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara and Vilas Joshi, chartered accountant Hemant Hathi, and former Andhra Bank Director Anup Garg and some unidentified persons in connection with the alleged bank fraud. The ED had taken a cognisance of this FIR to file a money laundering case, and in its raids, allegedly got leads on Asthana.
Last month, the CBI got in touch with the Interpol in Nigeria to locate the Sandesaras, who have operations in Nigeria, Mauritius and the UAE