There is perhaps a gallery of defaulters with the Indian investigative and legal teams. And so, it comes as no surprise when businessmen dodge arrests and flee the country from the clutches of the law. In 2018, Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara, owner of Vadodara-based company Sterling Biotech Ltd, did just this. He along with his family, fled from the country and have been untraceable since October 2017. Nitin is listed as wanted by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a Rs 5000 crore bank fraud case.
Cut to July 21, 2021, a public notice has been issued to Sterling Biotech Ltd, for liquidating the assets. The liquidation proceedings against the company are currently underway with the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and it’s under the supervision of the liquidation officer advocate Mamata Binani.
The company’s assets worth Rs 548 crores, as per this public notice, will be auctioned online on September 6, 2021. Those wishing to participate in the online auction can contact the liquidation officer, advocate Binani.
The curious case of Sterling Biotech Ltd
Sterling Biotech Ltd is a pharma company owned by brothers Nitin and Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara. The Sandesara brothers had a taken a loan of Rs 5700 crore from a conglomerate of banks that was led by the Andhra Bank. Till date, the entire amount is a non-performing asset (NPA). The Sandesara brothers, along with Chetan’s wife Dipti have been untraceable since October 2017, ever since the case was registered by the CBI.
Who are the Sandesara brothers?
Nitin and Chetan Sandesara, began their careers by producing and trading in tea, and slowly graduated to manufacturing gelatin, which is used in pharma companies in India. They manufactured gelatin from their Vadodara-based company Sterling Biotech Ltd.
Before CBI knocked their doors, the Sandesara brothers controlled around 340 companies, 92 of which were based in foreign lands. According to reports and investigators, the brothers were hands-on in energy, construction and healthcare sectors and the group was estimated at a worth of $7 billion.
Opulent lifestyle, palatial properties and friends in Bollywood, glued to the fame and money they thrived upon. But things took a turn when in 2017, CBI accused the Sandesara brothers of money laundering and criminal conspiracy. Even the ED officials charged Sterling Biotech Ltd with illegal acquisition and money laundering case of worth $700 million to benefit their ‘promoters’ – Nitin, Chetan, Chetan’s wife Dipti and their associate Hitesh Patel.
According to reports, the Sandesara family is moving freely in Nigeria with their businesses including that of oil and construction, are making skyrocketing profits.
Of Bollywood ‘friends’ and assets worth crores
On July 2, 2021, ED had tweeted that it had provisionally attached 8 immovable properties, 3 vehicles and several bank accounts/shares/mutual funds worth Rs 8.79 crore under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in the case of the fraud with banks by the Sandesara Group. With this, the total attachments have reached Rs 14,521.80 crore. Total proceeds of crime in this case is more than Rs 16,000 crore.
The attached assets belong to Bollywood actor and director Sanjay Khan (Rs 3 crore), Irfan Ahmed Siddiqui (Rs 2.41 crore), popular disc jockey DJ Aqeel Abdulkhalil Bachooali (Rs 1.98 crore) and Bollywood actor Dino Morea (Rs 1.40 crore).
The Sandesara Brothers had allegedly transferred the assets to these four to cover up their bank frauds. The Sandesara brothers – Nitin and Chetan – along with the Chetan’s wife Dipti, were declared fugitives in 2020 under Section 4 of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act. Also, included in the list of accused is Hiteshkumar Narendrabhai Patel, brother-in-law of the Sandesaras.
On further probe, investigators also found that the Sandesara brothers also indulged in fraud with banks based overseas. The Sandesara’s foreign-based companies had borrowed about Rs 9,000 crore from foreign branches of Indian banks.
The loan given to Sandesara’s company was approved by a joint consortium of five banks, Andhra Bank, UCO Bank, State Bank of India, Allahabad Bank and Bank of India.
The ED has arrested four people including a Delhi-based businessman-cum-middleman Gagan Dhawan, ex-director of Andhra Bank, Anup Garg, Director of SBL and RB Dixit & Ranjeet Malik, aide to Dhawan.
Fugitive Hiteshkumar Narendrabhai Patel was detained in Albania’s capital Tirana on March 22, 2021 on the basis of a red corner notice (RCN) issued against him by the Interpol on March 11, 2021, following requests from the Indian authorities.