A court in Delhi on Monday declared four directors of Gujarat-based pharma firm Sterling Biotech as fugitive economic offenders in a Rs 8,100-crore bank fraud case, PTI reported.
The Sandesara brothers – Nitin and Chetan – along with the latter’s wife Dipti were declared fugitives under Section 4 of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act. Hiteshkumar Narendrabhai Patel, the brother-in-law of the Sandesaras is also among the accused.
Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana passed the order on a petition filed by the Enforcement Directorate. Rana also permitted the agency to re-approach the court for initiation of confiscation proceedings under the law, according to The Economic Times.
“The conduct of the respondents, unambiguously, establishes on record that they have left India to avoid criminal prosecution and they are deliberately avoiding to return back to India to face the instant prosecution,” the judge said. “Thus, I have no hesitation to observe that the respondents deserve to be declared fugitive economic offenders.”
According to the Enforcement Directorate, the Vadodara-based business family allegedly manipulated figures in the balance sheets of their flagship companies and induced banks to sanction higher loans. It had sought immediate confiscation of their assets in India and abroad, worth over Rs 7,000 crore.
A fugitive economic offender is a person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued and who has left India to avoid criminal prosecution or one who refuses to return to the country to face criminal prosecution.
Investigation in the case has revealed that the directors of the group laundered the proceeds of crime through various layers and routed the funds outside India. They incorporated more than 100 entities in various countries such as the United States, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, British Virgin Islands, Mauritius, Barbados and Nigeria, among others. “Their main entities outside India include Richmond Overseas, Sunshine Trust Corporation, SEEPCO BVI, SEEPCO Nigeria, Atlantic Blue Water Services Private Limited and few others,” the central agency said.
It also added that the investigation revealed that the Sandesaras were engaged in oil business in Nigeria and have numerous assets there. While the three Sandesaras were earlier reported to be in Nigeria, Patel was said to be in the US.
So far, the ED has arrested four people in the fraud case, including Delhi-based businessman and alleged middleman Gagan Dhawan, company director Rajbhushan Dixit, former director of Andhra Bank Anup Garg and a man identified as Ranjeet Malik. Assets worth Rs 4,710 crore have been attached and the agency said it has seized Rs 15 lakh documents as part of its investigation.
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel has also been questioned thrice for his alleged involvement in the case.