Crime

Sandesara brothers chargesheeted in ₹8,100-cr loan fraud, duo still abroad

ED filed chargesheet under the anti-money laundering law against Sandesara brothers and their Gujarat-based pharmaceutical company Sterling Biotech Limited (SBL) in the fraudulent ₹8,100-crore loan

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NH Web Desk

The Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday filed chargesheet under the anti-money laundering law against Sandesara brothers and their Gujarat-based pharmaceutical company Sterling Biotech Limited (SBL) in the fraudulent ₹8,100-crore loan from domestic as well as offshore branches of Indian banks during 2004-2012.

The ED named 191 accused and 184 companies of the SBL group in the chargesheet filed in a special court. The SBL group include Sterling Biotech Limited, PMT Machines Limited, Sterling SEZ and Infra Limited, Sterling Port Limited, Sterling Oil Resources Limited and 179 shell companies.

Some individuals named in the chargesheet include main promoters of SBL group -- Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara and Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara -- Dipti Sandesara, Rajbhushan Dixit, Hitesh Patel, their chartered accountant Hemant Hathi and middlemen Gagan Dhawan.

The agency said the investigation in this case is still on as Sandesara brothers are learnt to be in abroad.

The ED said it has so far arrested four persons in the case including a Delhi-based business man-cum-middleman Gagan Dhawan, Ex-Director of Andhra Bank Anup Garg, Director of SBL R.B. Dixit and Ranjeet Malik, a front man of Dhawan

Action under Fugitive Economic Offenders Law shall be initiated soon against the Sandesara brothers and Red Corner Notice with respect to promoters shall also be issued, said the ED which 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 ₹5,700 crore was filed against them by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Investigation in ED revealed that Sandesaras brothers and others hatched a criminal conspiracy for cheating banks by manipulating figures in the balance sheets of their flagship companies and induced banks to sanction higher loans.

"After obtaining loans, the accused diverted the loan funds to non-mandated purposes through a web of shell companies. Thus, the loan funds were diverted, layered and laundered by the promoters for their personal purposes. Total amount of loan fraud as on date is ₹8,100 crore. The loan fraud pertains to domestic as well as offshore branches of Indian banks," said an ED statement.

Loans to the tune of ₹5,700 crore was disbursed by various banks during the years 2004-2012 and Look Out Circulars were opened against the accused in August, 2017, said the statement.

"To fulfil their criminal motive of defrauding banks, the promoters devised a multi layered strategy of cheating. They not only cheated banks but also revenue department as well as the share-holders. Their strategy included incorporation of shell companies, conducting circular transactions to artificially inflate turnover of flagship companies, claiming higher depreciations on non-existing machinery, artificial share trading with the use shell companies, layering and laundering of proceeds of crime within India and abroad through the web of shell companies."

The promoters used their employees' names and got incorporated 249 shell companies, said the ED, adding the ill gotten money were knowingly rotated, layered and finally integrated into the financial system and projected as untainted.

"The amount was further invested in the form of immovable properties. The loan funds were diverted for non-mandated purposes to shell companies and were withdrawn as cash. An amount of Rs 140 crore was withdrawn from shell companies and were used for the personal purposes of the promoters which also includes bribing of public officials," said the statement.

The ED said the promoters created a web of corporate and accounting structure abroad and they incorporated more than 100 entities in various countries including United Arab Emirates, the US, the UK, British Virgin Island, Mauritius, Barbados and Nigeria.

"Their main entities outside India includes Richmond Overseas, Sunshine Trust Corporation, SEEPCO BVI, SEEPCO Nigeria and Atlantic Blue Water Services Pvt Ltd. It is revealed during investigation that the funds were rotated through various structures and ultimately carried to Nigeria to finance their oil business," said the ED.

The banks have also found that the sanctioned loans were not used for the laid down purposes but were diverted for non-mandated purposes.

The ED said the banks have also declared the loans to the tune of ₹8,100 crores as fraud (domestic loans ₹3,675 crore and foreign loans ₹4,425 crore) as on date.

The ED said it has so far arrested four persons in the case including a Delhi-based business man-cum-middleman Gagan Dhawan, Ex-Director of Andhra Bank Anup Garg, Director of SBL R.B. Dixit and Ranjeet Malik, a front man of Dhawan.

Besides, the ED has so far attached assets to the tune of ₹4,710 crore in the case.

With agency inputs

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