In October 2017, the CBI had said that Sterling Biotech Company had taken loans of over Rs 5,000 crore from a consortium led by Andhra Bank which has turned into non-performing assets. The FIR has proved that the total pending dues of the group companies were Rs 5,383 crore as on December 31, 2016. The ED had taken a notice of this FIR to file a money laundering case against them.
The CBI had taken Sterling Biotech, its directors Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara, Dipti Chetan Sandesara, Rajbhushan Omprakash Dixit, Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara and Vilas Joshi, chartered accountant Hemant Hathi, Garg and some unidentified persons in connection with the said bank fraud case. The firm and Dhawan are being examined by the Enforcement Directorate for allegedly bribing senior income tax department officials as part of an earlier criminal complaint.
Assets worth over Rs 4,700 crore of Sterling Biotech Group, a Gujarat-based pharmaceutical firm, were attacked today by the Enforcement Directorate in relation with a Rs 5,000-crore bank fraud and money laundering case, the agency said. It alleged “cross-border transactions” allegedly undertaken by the Sterling group were under probe and the ED was mulling approaching foreign jurisdictions to seize several oil rigs, barges, and oilfields in Nigeria, for which the group had invested, and about 50 overseas bank accounts of the company. The agency addressed it also attached Sandesara house in Juhu, Mumbai, a farmhouse in Ambad in Jalna district of Maharashtra, a company office in Atladara in Vadodara, and a factory in Ooty in Tamil Nadu. A number of senior bureaucrats, inclusive of high-ranking Income Tax department officers, are under the scanner of the ED as it said it suspects that “some of the diverted loan funds were also paid to public servants”.
The probe agencies had claimed that the firm and its absconding promoters, on the “basis of false and fabricated” documents, had fraudulently obtained credit facilities of around Rs 5,000 crore from various banks, which subsequently turned into non-performing assets (NPAs). “The loans were given by a consortium of banks including the Andhra Bank, the UCO Bank, the State Bank of India, the Allahabad Bank and the Bank of India. “Till now, the banks have declared as fraud, various outstanding loan accounts to the tune of about Rs 5,000 crore 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 ED said.
The agency said that the “siphoned off loan funds were used to buy properties in the names of various companies, to purchase shares of Sterling Biotech Ltd and Sterling International Enterprises Ltd to attract market fancy and project a healthy picture of the companies”. It claimed the funds of loan amount were allegedly diverted and used to purchase a fleet of luxury cars including a Porsche, Range Rover, Audi, Mercedes, and BMW.
The firm’s promoters allegedly debited about Rs 140 crore in cash from bank accounts of various shell or benami companies for personal use such as the purchase of jewelry, the agency said. At least 300 shell or benami companies, which were generally used to “divert and miss utilize loan funds”, are under the scanner, it said. The agency has seized three people so far in this case — Delhi-based businessman Gagan Dhawan, former Andhra Bank director Anup Garg and Sterling Biotech Ltd director Rajbhhushan Dixit. Multiple prosecution complaints or charge sheets have also been filed in front of the special court here.