Who is Nitin Sandesara, Key Accused In Rs 5,000 Cr Loan Fraud Case

Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara, the 58-year-old director of Gujarat-based pharma giant Sterling Biotech, has been embroiled in controversy ever since his company was accused of taking loans of over Rs 5,000 crore from a consortium of banks, which then turned into non-performing assets.

He currently occupies the position of chairman at Sterling International Enterprises Ltd and chairman, chief executive officer (CEO) and joint MD at Sterling Biotech Ltd. He is also on the board of 33 other companies. He is also the chairman of Sterling Exploration and Energy Production Company Limited.

A qualified chartered accountant and a commerce graduate from Mumbai University, Sandesara is responsible for the group’s strategy and business development. The estimated group valuation stands at $6.9 billion.

Sandesara and his brother Chetan have businesses across the country and abroad, including companies in Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, British Virgin Islands, America, Seychelles and Mauritius.

They own and operate various businesses, including real estate. The industrialists, who started out from drug business, are also owners of several oil wells in Nigeria.

The brothers have been named as the main accused in the case and are said to have left the country long before investigators came to know of the alleged fraud and opened a case against the firm.

With a major fraud behind him, Sandesara joins the ranks of the many businessmen-turned-fugitives, who fled the country after failing to fulfill their financial obligations to Indian banks – former IPL chairman Lalit Modi, liquor baron Vijay Mallya and Gujarat-based diamond merchant Nirav Modi.

Other family members are also reported to be involved in the alleged loan fraud and are said to be evading the authorities, along with Sandesara, in Nigeria .

Case Developments So Far

Sandesara has reportedly managed to evade the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and has fled to Nigeria along with several of his family members, media reports suggest.

This comes after initial reports suggested that Sandesara was arrested by Dubai Police based on a non-bailable arrest warrant issued by an Indian court. But he has since left the UAE, PTI reported.

"“What we have learnt is that he had been detained by authorities in the UAE for an offence related to local issues. The detention was not related to our case. He is not in the UAE anymore.”" - An official involved with the investigation had told The Indian Express.

However, the investigation agencies are now planning to send a request to UAE authorities, asking them to “provisionally arrest” the Sandesaras if they are within their jurisdiction, The Times of India reported.

Efforts are also on get Interpol Red Corner Notices issued against Sandesara and his family members, the report added.

Sandesara’s company allegedly took loans of over Rs 5,000 crore from a consortium led by Andhra Bank, which had turned into non-performing assets.

It is also alleged that Sandesara and the others accused set up more than 300 shell and benami companies in India and abroad. The accused reportedly moved the money taken as loans via these shell companies.

As per the initial FIR filed, the total pending dues of the group of companies were Rs 5,383 crore as on 31 December 2016. The ED had taken the FIR into cognisance.

Last month, the CBI had booked Vadodara-based Sterling Biotech, its directors Chetan, Dipti, Rajbhushan Omprakash Dixit, Sandesara and Vilas Joshi, chartered accountant Hemant Hathi, former director Andhra Bank Anup Garg and some unidentified persons in connection with the alleged bank fraud case.

Of these, Dixit and Garg have been arrested by the ED, along with another Delhi-based businessman named Gagan Dhawan.

The ED had subsequently attached Sterling Biotech Group’s assets worth Rs 4,701 crore in connection to the Rs 5,000 crore bank fraud and money laundering case.

The agency had issued a provisional freezing order under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and attached immovable properties of around 4,000 acres, plant and machinery, around 200 bank accounts of various linked companies and promoters, shares worth Rs. 6.67 crore and several luxury cars of the Vadodara-based group, officials told PTI.

(With inputs from PTI, The Times of India, The Indian Express.)

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