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ED seeks to attach oil assets of Sterling Biotech promoters in Nigeria

Saurabh Kumar
ED, oil asset, Sterling Biotech, Nigeria, Enforcement Directorate, Sterling Biotech case, industry news, Nirav Modi, Punjab National Bank.

Taking a step forward in the Sterling Biotech case, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has sought a Letter of Request from its special court to attach the oil assets of the promoters in Nigeria. Earlier in June, the agency had issued a provisional attachment order for these apart from other overseas assets. “The Letter of Request will then be submitted to the competent court of Nigeria,” said a source. A Letter of request is required to attach overseas assets.

The ED in June attached properties worth Rs 9,778 crore of Sterling Biotech and related to the promoters Nitin Sandesara, Chetan Sandesara, and Deepti Sandesara who are absconding and have left the country. The agency is also looking for Hitesh Patel, brother of Nitin and Chetan. An extradition process has been initiated against the accused.

The Nigerian oil assets of the Sandesaras include four oil rigs and an oil field named OML143. In Addition, four Panama registered ships, a gulfstream jet registered in the US and held in the name of SAIB LLC have also been provisionally attached by the agency. The Sandesaras have defrauded Indian banks to the tune of Rs 14,500 crore, much more than Rs 11,400-crore scam committed by diamond merchant Nirav Modi on the Punjab National Bank.

A case was registered by the ED against Sterling Biotech and its promoters after the Central Bureau of Investigation lodged an FIR in October 2017 for defrauding banks of Rs 5,383 crore. During the course of investigation, it was found that another `9,000 crore was borrowed by the Sandesaras from foreign branches of Indian banks.

The banks which have extended loans include Andhra Bank, UCO Bank, State Bank of India, Allahabad Bank and Bank of India. The agency is also likely to summon top Bollywood personalities in connection with the Sterling Biotech case as the agency has found that huge sums were paid to them for performing at events organised by Sandesaras. Earlier, ED had summoned DJ Aqeel and actor

Dino Morea. The agency suspects that money could have been routed abroad through these Bollywood personalities.