The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday filed a prosecution complaint (chargesheet) in a Rs 8,100 crore money laundering case against Sterling Biotech Ltd (SBL) Group, which has been accused of defrauding Indian banks in the country and their branches abroad.
The ED investigation revealed that main promoters of Sterling Group Nitin Sandesara and Chetan Sandesara, Dipti Sandesara and others hatched a criminal conspiracy to cheat banks. “They manipulated figures in the balance sheets of their flagship companies and induced banks to sanction higher loans. After obtaining loans, they diverted the loans funds to non-mandated purposes through a web of shell companies,” the ED said in a statement.
The Rs 8,100 crore loans were diverted, layered and laundered by the promoters for their personal purposes. The case against SBL Group was registered in August 2017.
The prosecution complaint has been filed against 191 accused entities/persons, including seven individuals and 184 companies. The accused entities, include flagship companies of the group like Sterling Biotech Limited, PMT Machines Limited, Sterling SEZ and Infra Limited, Sterling Port Limited, Sterling Oil Resources Limited and 179 Shell Companies.
The chargehseeted individuals include Nitin Sandesara and Chetan Sandesara, Dipti Sandesara, Rajbhushan Dixit, Hitesh Patel, their Chartered Accountant Hemant Hathi and middlemen Gagan Dhawan.
“To fulfil their criminal motive of defrauding banks, the promoters devised a multi layered strategy of cheating whereby they not only cheated banks but also cheated revenue department as well as the shareholders.
Their strategy included incorporation of shell companies, conducting circular transactions to artificially inflate turnover of flagship companies, claiming higher depreciations on non-existing machinery, artificial share trading, layering and laundering of proceeds of crime within India and abroad through the web of shell companies,” the ED said.
Investigation has revealed that the promoters used their employees’ names and got incorporated 249 shell companies. The original PAN cards, original stamps, original seals, original memorandum of association and original blank signed cheque books of the shell companies have been seized by the ED from the possession of the promoters. All these shell companies were controlled, managed and beneficially owned by the promoters and were actually used in the process of money laundering, the agency added.
The Sandesaras have since fled to foreign shores and are suspected to be located in Nigeria and Dubai.