Fugitive businessman Nitin Sandesara used 3 Indian passports, floated 37 firms in US with brother Chetan

New Delhi: Fugitive economic offender Nitin Sandesara, wanted in India, may be using multiple Indian passports, informed government sources told the Firstpost. The owner of Sandesara group being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Income Tax Department in the Rs. 5,300 crore bank fraud, is in possession of at least three passports with the latest one issued at Washington, USA.

The investigators have found that the absconding businessman is carrying three passports - E700***0, Z178***0, J206***1 and is suspected to have acquired a residency permit of United Arab Emirates (UAE). The passport J206***1 was issued to Nitin Sandesara at Washington DC.

Sources said Nitin and his brother Chetan had floated 37 firms in the USA, which were involved in real estate and port development. Some of these companies, sources claimed, were also involved in funneling money to Nigeria. Sandesara's had acquired two oil exploration projects in Nigeria, which are being operated through Sterling Global Oil Resources Limited registered in the British Virgin Islands, and SEEPCO Nigeria with a subsidiary, Sterling Global Oil Resources Private Limited registered in Mauritius.

 Fugitive businessman Nitin Sandesara used 3 Indian passports, floated 37 firms in US with brother Chetan

Sterling factory in Gujarat. Pic courtesy: Sterling Biotech website

Sandesara has secured substantial loan funds to the tune of Rs 1,030 crore from Indian banks and routed it through offshore investment companies like Crownhouse International Corp BVI, European Financial Development Corporation and Global Finance Ventures Ltd -- all owned by him.

Around 50 percent of stake in the first project (Sterling Global Oil Resources Limited registered in the British Virgin Islands) in which around Rs 850 crores was pumped in through loans is held by Sandesara in his individual capacity and the remaining 50 percent is with his relatives through their offshore entity known as Sterling Oil Resources LLC.

The loans swindled from Indian banks is suspected to have been routed through five British Virgin Islands companies, viz., Ananta Barge Operations, Amber Barge Services, Aarya Barge Hiring Limited, Bhavya Tug Leasing Limited and Braahmi Tug Leasing Limited.

Nitin’s younger brother Chetan, sources claimed, is in possession of an Indian passport Z178***9 and he too may have obtained a UAE residency permit providing flat No. 2202, 392 Al Saeef Tower, Dubai Marina, UAE as their residential address. Investigators suspect that both the brothers along with family members are holed up in Nigeria. This is partially substantiated by the money channelised in Nigeria.

According to documents reviewed by Firstpost, Sandesara-owned Sterling Oil Resources Limited, India had obtained Rs 1,375 crore as loan from a consortium of Indian banks and this money was routed through its immediate subsidiary in Mauritius for the ultimate utilisation by SEEPCO-Nigeria. Of the total amount, Rs 250 crore was sanctioned by Andhra Bank, Rs 181 crore by Allahabad Bank, Rs 272 crores by Bank of Baroda, Rs 272 crores by UCO Bank and Rs 272 crores by Punjab National Bank.

“Sandesara’s may have siphoned off a large chunk of bank loan and invested it in Nigeria using a maze of companies based in tax haven countries, UAE, US, Mauritius and China. They had floated 'China Gelatin Limited' in Hong Kong and further its subsidiary, 'Hebein Gelatin Company Limited' Wuji Country, Hebel Province to channelise the funds. Dubai, where Sandesara brothers had floated 18 companies, is only a coordinating point for the operations of the group in Nigeria and USA using more than 90 mailbox firms. Evidence collected so far establishes a trail of Rs 2,930 crores,” sources said.

The activities of the group in Nigeria is not limited to oil exploration and extraction but extends to providing ancillary services like data mining, logistical support like tugs, ships and barges and also trading of oil. All these activities were carried out through offshore entities which were privately owned by Nitin Sandesara and his relatives, making it conducive for movement of funds from one entity to the other.

The Sandesara group, which started its business as a gelatin manufacturer had expanded its activities over the years to other areas like SEZ, ports and infrastructure, had taken bank loans for various projects. Within a short period of 10 years from 2001 to 2010, its reported turnover increased from Rs 160 crore to Rs 1,600 crore and reserves also rose from Rs 178 crore in 2001 to Rs 2,444 crore by 2010. Loan funds also increased simultaneously.

The investigation conducted so far reveals a 10-fold increase in turnover and profits reported by the Sandesara group was only on paper and massive manipulations have been carried out by the company to inflate its turnover.

Updated Date: Sep 24, 2018 15:36:52 IST