The Enforcement Directorate on Friday moved a special court in New Delhi to declare four accused in the Sterling Biotech case fugitive economic offenders under a new law, PTI reported. The court issued notices to the accused to seek their response.

Unidentified officials said the agency has filed a petition before a special court set up under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, seeking to declare Nitin Sandesara, Chetan Sandesara, Dipti Sandesara and Hitesh Patel fugitives under Section 4 of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act.

“All the four are promoters of the Sterling Group and have fled the country to avoid criminal probe against them in a Rs 8,100-crore bank loan fraud involving a consortium of banks,” an unidentified senior official was quoted as saying.

The agency has also sought to confiscate assets worth over Rs 5,000 crore of the Gujarat-based business family as part of the action under the new law. The Sandesaras are reportedly based in Nigeria, while Patel is said to be in the United States. The agency will also seek their extradition, the official said.

On Tuesday, the Enforcement Directorate filed a supplementary chargesheet in a Delhi court in the money-laundering case involving Sterling Biotech. A chargesheet was filed in July against Nitin Sandesara, the director of Sterling Biotech, relating to the company’s alleged default on the repayment of loans taken from a consortium led by Andhra Bank.

The case

In October 2017, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a case against the company for defaulting on loans worth Rs 5,383 crore. The CBI has alleged that the company took the loans from a consortium of banks led by the Andhra Bank and then defaulted on them.

The CBI booked Nitin Sandesara, Sterling Biotech’s directors Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara, Dipti Chetan Sandesara, Rajbhushan Omprakash Dixit, and Vilas Joshi, chartered accountant Hemant Hathi, former director of Andhra Bank Anup Garg and other unidentified people.

In June, the Enforcement Directorate said it had attached the company’s assets worth Rs 4,701 crore.

The Enforcement Directorate also registered a money laundering case against the company and its promoters Nitin and Chetan Sandesara in October. The agency believes the promoters siphoned off most of the loans the company defaulted on.

The ED has made similar petitions to declare liquor baron Vijay Mallya and diamond jewellers Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi as fugitive economic offenders.