Accused in Rs 8,100-Cr Sterling Biotech Case Held in Albania

Hitesh Patel, an accused in the Rs 8,100-crore bank loan fraud allegedly perpetrated by Gujarat-based Sterling Biotech group, has been detained in Albania on the basis of an Interpol notice issued against him by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), officials said on Friday, 22 March.

Hitesh Narender Bhai Patel was apprehended by law enforcement officials of that country from the capital city of Tirana on 20 March, they said.

The officials later informed Indian investigative agencies about the development and the ED officials are expected to reach Albania soon to secure Patel’s extradition.

"“Patel is an accused in the case and is the brother-in-law of one of the main accused, Chetan Sandesara. The other prime accused is Nitin Sandesara. Patel is expected to be extradited to India soon.”" - Officials cited by PTI

Former CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana's name has also surfaced during the investigation in the case, although he is not mentioned in the FIR.

ED sources cited by ANI said Patel is an accused in a Rs 5,000-crore money laundering case, with a prosecution complaint filed by the ED in a special PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering) court.

Patel Instrumental in Getting Dummy Directors for Shell Companies: ED

The ED had issued a red corner notice against him from the Interpol on 11 March. The detention has happened based on this warrant, the officials said.

The agency said Patel was instrumental in getting dummy directors for shell companies used by Sandesaras, reported PTI. 

The Sandesara brothers are also stated to be in Albania, and on 19 March, a Delhi court had allowed the ED to send extradition requests to that country against the two.

The ED had told the court that as per reliable sources, the accused – Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara and Chetankumar Jayantilal Sandesara, both directors of Sterling Biotech Ltd (SBL) – have obtained the citizenship of Albania and non-bailable warrants (NBW) were issued against them earlier this year. SBL is headquartered in Gujarat's Vadodara.

The agency claimed that Patel "also handled and managed illicit cash transactions for Sandesaras and acted as director in many companies and siphoned off loan funds for purchasing luxury cars". The agency had earlier summoned him in the case, but he was absconding from the country, the officials said.

A court-issued NBW is already pending against him, they said.

Also Read: ED Seeks Fugitive Tag For Sterling Biotech Group Promoters

The ED has also sought to tag the Sandesara brothers, Chetan Sandesara's wife Dipti and Patel under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act and had moved a court in Delhi to confiscate all their assets.

The ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation have booked the company, its directors – Sandesara brothers, Dipti Chetan Sandesara, Rajbhushan Omprakash Dixit, Vilas Joshi, chartered accountant Hemant Hathi, former director of Andhra Bank Anup Garg and some unidentified persons in connection with the alleged bank fraud case.

It is alleged that the company took loans of over Rs 5,000 crore from a consortium led by Andhra Bank, which had turned into non-performing assets. The total volume of the alleged loan defraud is pegged at Rs 8,100 crore.

The agency has filed five charge sheets in this case till now and attached properties valued at Rs 4,710 crore, according to PTI.

The ED, in this case, had said it is investigating the role of "public officials" for suspected bribery of about Rs 140 crore.

The accused are also being probed by the ED for allegedly bribing senior Income Tax department officials as part of an earlier criminal complaint.

(With inputs from PTI and ANI.)

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