Rs 8100 cr bank fraud: Accused Hitesh Patel detained in Albania
In a major development, Hitesh Narenderbhai Patel, wanted by the Indian agencies in connection with the Rs 8,100-crore bank loan fraud, involving Vadodara-based Sterling Biotech Group, has been detained at Tirana in Albania.
A US citizen, the accused was detained on Thursday, after Interpol issued Red Notice against him on March 11, on the request of the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
According to sources, the Indian agencies are in touch with Interpol and Albanian authorities and added that efforts are being made to extradite or deport Hitesh Patel to India.
As per the ED, Hitesh Patel, brother of Nitin Sandesara and Chetan Sandesara, was instrumental in getting dummy directors for shell companies used by Sandesaras to route, divert and launder the money. A non-bailable warrant has been issued against Patel.
The CBI had registered an FIR in 2017 for bank loan fraud against Sterling Biotech Ltd, its group companies, its directors and others. Sterling Biotech is promoted by Nitin Sandesara and Chetan Sandesara, who have reportedly fled abroad to escape proceedings in India.
The ED has also obtained non-bailable warrants from a Special PMLA court against absconding accused.
The agency had earlier filed prosecution complaints against a Delhi-based businessman Gagan Dhawan and ex-director of Andhra Bank, Anup Garg.
The ED had in May last year, attached properties worth Rs 4,700 crore of Sandesara brothers and their companies. The attached assets include immovable properties of around 4,000 acres in total, plant machinery, around 200 bank accounts of various companies and accounts of promoters, shares worth Rs 6.67 crore and various high-end luxury cars.
ED found during the investigation that several companies promoted by the Sandesara brothers had, on the basis of false and fabricated documents, fraudulently obtained credit facilities of more than Rs 5,000 crore from various banks, which subsequently turned into NPAs.
The loans were sanctioned by consortium of banks, led by Andhra Bank, UCO Bank, State Bank of India, Allahabad Bank and Bank of India.
Till date, the banks have declared as fraud, various outstanding loan accounts to the tune of about Rs 5,000 crores in respect of various companies of Sterling Group, including Sterling Biotech Ltd, Sterling Port Ltd, PMT Machines Ltd, Sterling SEZ and Infrastructure Ltd and Sterling Oil Resources Ltd.
The Sandesaras had set up more than 300 shell and benami companies in India and abroad, which were used to divert and misutilise loan funds.
The modus operandi of money laundering involved formation of shell/benami companies, manipulating balancesheets, inflating turnovers, insider shares trading, etc.
These shell and benami companies were controlled by the Sandesaras through dummy directors, who were/are employees of the various companies of Sterling Group. Bogus sale/purchase was shown between the benami companies and the Sterling group of companies in order to divert loan funds and inflate turnovers to obtain further loans from banks. \
Bogus sale/purchase was also shown between the benami companies and the Sterling group of companies in order to divert loan funds and inflate turnovers to obtain further loans from banks. The loan funds were rotated in multiple layers through the various shell and benami companies to conceal the source of such funds.
The total amount after interest stands over ?8100 crore. The ED is also investigating various cross-border transactions undertaken by group. The Sandesaras have several business concerns in Mauritius, UAE, Nigeria, British Virgin Islands, Seychelles and USA, among other countries.
More than 50 foreign bank accounts and several other assets and properties situated abroad, related to the Sterling Group, are also under the scanner of the ED.