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    ED a step closer to securing fugitive economic offender tag on Sandesaras

    Synopsis

    A court of an additional district and sessions judge in Delhi has now posted the matter for final arguments by ED and the accused to decide whether to declare Sterling Biotech MD Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara and others as fugitive economic offenders.

    Agencies
    ED has already attached Indian and overseas assets worth Rs 9,778 crore of the Vadodara-based pharmaceutical company and its promoters in connection with the alleged bank fraud case.
    New Delhi: An Enforcement Directorate plea seeking fugitive economic offender tag on the Sandesara brothers and two other accused in the Rs 14,500-crore Sterling Biotech money laundering case will finally be heard by a lower court after the Supreme Court clarified that it has not stayed proceedings against the Sandesaras.

    The proceedings were hanging fire for nearly a year due to “lack of clarity” over a Supreme Court order passed last July.

    A court of an additional district and sessions judge in Delhi has now posted the matter for final arguments by ED and the accused to decide whether to declare Sterling Biotech managing director Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara, his brother Chetan Sandesara, wife Dipti Sandesara, and brother-in-law Hitesh Narendra Bhai Patel as fugitive economic offenders (FEOs).

    It will be taken up immediately after the courts resume normal functioning. At present, courts are taking up only urgent cases due to the Covid-19-induced restrictions.

    As per the statute, a fugitive economic offender is an individual against whom an arrest warrant has been issued in respect of a scheduled offence and who has fled India so as to avoid criminal prosecution, or being abroad, refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution.

    Once a person is declared an FEO, government agencies can confiscate their properties in India and abroad to recover the losses.

    ED has already attached Indian and overseas assets worth Rs 9,778 crore of the Vadodara-based pharmaceutical company and its promoters in connection with the alleged bank fraud case. Once it gets FEO tag on Sandesaras, the agency can confiscate these properties.

    The agency’s plea seeking the same, however, was virtually stayed since July 2 last year when the Supreme Court, hearing a plea by the accused challenging issuance of non-bailable warrants against them by a lower court, ordered that “no coercive steps” should be taken against the accused till further orders.

    Armed with the Supreme Court order, the defence counsel in the lower court argued that it granted protection to the accused from any coercive steps by the agency including FEO tag. ED had challenged this interpretation by the accused. But the lower court, which had last year heard arguments from both sides, refused to continue the hearing and told the agency to get a clarification from the Supreme Court on its order.

    In March this year, the top court made it “clear that the interim order July 2, 2019 passed by this court is not intended to stay the proceedings pending before the additional sessions judge”.

    In the meanwhile, the judge who had presided over the case was transferred out.

    In March, ED moved an application in the lower court seeking to advance the hearing of its plea for FEO tag on the Sandesaras. A new judge has now listed it for final arguments soon after the courts resume normal functioning.

    ED has questioned senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel thrice in the past one week over his alleged involvement in the bank fraud scandal, which is considered bigger than the Rs 11,400-crore Punjab National Bank fraud allegedly committed by Nirav Modi, another fugitive businessman, and his co-accused.

    In a charge sheet filed in March last year, ED had accused the Sandesaras of laundering more than Rs 8,000 crore from banks through 174 shell companies. A total of 195 people were charge-sheeted.


    Elaborating on the modus operandi in its charge sheet, ED had submitted that “loan funds were diverted for non-mandated purposes, necessary disclosures were not made, loan funds were withdrawn as cash, and payments were made to non-existent parties”.

    The Sandesaras are believed to be currently hiding in Nigeria where they have invested in crude oil production.
    (Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)

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    3 Comments on this Story

    Sushil Srivastava36 days ago
    Fast Actions are needed.othervise delays will kill the motives of the cases.
    Shivaji 36 days ago
    where is the delay ?? something as important as this takes one year ?? chalta hai attitude
    Jagdish Kumar Bhargava36 days ago
    There may be some other accounts of the UPA1&2 era similar to sterling biotech and all such a/cs should be investigated thoroughly.AP had done a lot of mischief during that period as the then PM was ineffective. Cleaning of Financial sectors urgently required.
    The Economic Times