DC: Sterling Biotech: ED attaches assets worth Rs 9,778 crore

27 June 2019: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has attached assets worth over Rs 9,500 crore in connection with its money laundering probe against Gujarat-based pharmaceutical firm Sterling Biotech, which is allegedly involved in a multi-crore bank fraud case.

The agency in a statement issued here on Wednesday said that they have issued a provisional order under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for attachment of properties linked to Gujarat-based pharmaceutical firm Sterling Biotech. This is one of the biggest attachment of assets order issued by the agency and in this, most of the properties attached are based abroad, a senior official said, adding that the total value is Rs 9,778 crore.

“Four oil rigs and an oil field named OML-143 in Nigeria, four Panama registered ships— ‘Tuljabhawani’, ‘Varinda’, ‘Bhavya’ and ‘Brahmani’, a Gulfstream jet registered in the US and held in the name of SAIB LLC, and a residential flat in London have been attached”, the federal probe agency said in its statement. The holding company of the ships is Atlantic Blue Water Services, it added. The alleged Rs 8,100 crore bank loan fraud is being alleged to have been perpetrated by the Vadodara-based pharma firm and its main promoters Nitin Sandesara, Chetan Sandesara and Deepti Sandesara, all of whom are absconding.

The Sandesaras are also under probe for their alleged nexus with some high-profile politicians by the ED as also by the CBI and the Income-Tax department under criminal sections that deal with corruption and tax evasion respectively. The ED, in the past, has attached assets worth Rs 4,730 crore in this case. “The main promoters (of the Sterling group) have not only siphoned off loan funds to finance their Nigerian oil business but also for their personal purposes,” the agency said.

Investigations revealed that the group was engaged in round-tripping of standby letters of credit (SBLCs) funds to the tune of Rs 4,500 crore by violating conditions laid by the RBI while sanctioning the loan”. It is alleged that the company took loans of over Rs 5,383 crore from a consortium led by Andhra Bank, which had turned into non-performing assets. The ED registered a criminal case in the alleged bank loan fraud case based on a CBI FIR and chargesheet.

The promoters of the firm, also alleged to be the main conspirators of the bank fraud, are absconding and have been reported to be based in Nigeria from where India is trying to extradite them.

The Deccan Chronicle reported

Categories: Corporate Governance

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