Sterling Biotech Rs 8,100 cr bank fraud: ED claims Sandesara family misused public money to splurge on luxury watches, diamond jewellery, liquor

New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) seeking extradition of fugitive Sandesara brothers from Albania has claimed that they have gathered evidence to establish how the business family misused bank loan to splurge on diamonds, liquor and watches worth crores and also sent money to London, US and Dubai using the hawala route.

Sandesara brothers—Nitin, Chetan and his wife Dipti, wanted in the Rs 8,100 crore money laundering case is suspected to be hiding in Tirana, national capital of Albania. The confidential documents reviewed by Firstpost shows Dipti Sandesara using circuitous transactions withdrew around Rs 19 crore from various companies that had received loans from public sector banks.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) claims of the total amount, Rs 5.81 crore was used to purchase diamond jewellery, Rs 1 crore for watches and Rs 59 lakh to purchase gifts and shopping abroad. More than Rs 8.79 crore was kept in cash by Dipti and approximately Rs 87 lakh was sent to US, London and Dubai through the hawala route. Documents show Dipti in just one day—25 January, 2011 used 9 different bank accounts to withdraw more than Rs 20 lakh to purchase jewellery from a well-known shop based in Matunga East, Mumbai. Through a similar modus operandi, she withdrew more than Rs 25 lakh on a single day to purchase luxury watches from a shop based in Vadodara in Gujarat. Around Rs 8 lakh was withdrawn from at least five bank accounts on 7 January, 2011 to purchase expensive liquor.

Adopting a similar modus operandi, fugitive businessman Chetan Sandesara used 10 bank accounts on 29 April, 2011 and substantial amount of money was paid in Delhi through angadia (cash courier). Evidence gathered so far establishes the identity of the person who handed over the money to the group on behalf of certain individuals and also the details of money laundering as to how the money was disbursed thereafter by the group, including the name of the person to whom it was handed over in India and abroad.

“The real purpose of cash withdrawal varied from myriad personal uses of the promoter group to payments in the nature of gratification and gift. An office boy used to be sent to the bank with bearer cheques to withdraw cash and deliver it to an angadia at Kalbadevi, Mumbai. Further entries clearly mention that cash is handed over or received outside the country by certain individuals, indicating hawala operations. Around Rs 171 crore obtained as bank loan was shown as advances for capital work in progress to certain companies. The ongoing probe reveals no company or work found to exist at the stated address,” documents revealed.

But, how did Sandesara family continue to con public sector banks? The ED claims bank officials were bribed and data manipulated about Sterling Biotech and Sandesara group was fed into the banking system to fleece the treasury.

A senior ED officer said most the wanted businessmen also manipulated records to receive a term loan of Rs 1,375 crore equivalent to $275 million from a consortium of banks led by Andhra Bank for business operations abroad. The officer said, Rs 1,620 crore was moved to Mauritius and around Rs 3,000 was channelised to Nigeria for investment.

 Sterling Biotech Rs 8,100 cr bank fraud: ED claims Sandesara family misused public money to splurge on luxury watches, diamond jewellery, liquor

Sterling factory in Gujarat. Pic courtesy: Sterling Biotech website

“Money was routed through suspected mailbox companies in US, Mauritius and China. All these undisclosed offshore bogus entities in Seychelles, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, UAE and Panama were incorporated beginning 2006, which clearly indicates the ultimate purpose. Around Rs 140 crore was laundered to US in six installments under the pretext of business transactions, which never took place. The money was further moved to other locations using dummy firms," the officer claimed.

The ED maintained that financial statements and final accounts of the group were completely doctored and lacked any factual basis. The ED claims to have gathered substantial evidence to prove money laundering to US, London, Dubai and Nigeria using hawala operators. The agency said money laundering at US and Dubai was facilitated by HS Patel and N Parabhia.

“Since 2008, cash payments were made to bank officials. Moreover, data put out on the public domain by the company on its manufacturing capacity, purchase and sale of goods, acquisition of capital assets, export of goods and profitability, etc., were completely doctored to suit its needs and is totally at variance with the actual data. Manipulation of turnover, capital assets purchase and diversion of funds were not confined to Sterling Biotech Ltd alone but also found in other group companies as well, namely Sterling International Enterprises Ltd, PMT Machines Ltd, Sterling Ports Ltd and Sterling SEZ & Infrastructure Ltd etc,” the documents further said.

The ED probe shows the group also manipulated activities of the firms by adding ancillary services like data mining, logistical support like tugs, ships and barges in its portfolio. The activities mostly on paper were mentioned as carried out through offshore entities which were privately controlled by Sandesara brothers and his relatives, making it conducive for laundering of funds from one place to the other.

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Updated Date: Mar 28, 2019 07:39:42 IST