It was in June last year, that the ED questioned a senior Congress leader, who is now no more and earlier his son and son-in-law for their purported links with the Sandesara Group
In what could be a shocker of a news, Sterling group, owned by the fugitive Sandesara family is still doing roaring business with top Indian Public Sector Undertakings including the Maharatna PSU - Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL). The Sterling group is under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Serious Frauds Investigation Office (SFIO) for fraud and money laundering
According to whistle-blower Captain Sukhpal Singh, while the Sandesaras have been declared fugitives by the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court in September 2020, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL) is importing oil from Sterling Oil Exploration & Energy Production Company Ltd (SEEPCO) from Nigeria, a group company of the Sandesaras.
Quoting data obtained from the Indian customs department, Captain Singh claims that in December 2020, crude oil was imported via tanker Front Dynamic. "It was 1,30,341 mt of Okwuibome crude oil valued at Rs. 365.80 crore, which was imported by IOCL. The tanker landed at the Vadinar port in India. Another tanker Folegandros-I is headed for Paradeep port in Odisha. Its last port was TULJA, which is SEEPCO, Nigeria's loading terminal. It is owned by Atlantic Bluewater, and one of the supposedly attached assets as per Enforcement Directorate (ED)," he says.
Andhra Bank, now Union Bank of India, as well as SBI subsequently (both Lead-Banks for the Sterling-Group consortiums) were made aware of the oil-shipments headed for India via their respective Company Secretary and via a NSE portal complaint, which remains acknowledged by Union Bank of India, but unanswered to date, added Singh.
Captain Singh also requested the apex court to direct Andhra Bank, now Union Bank of India, and other lender banks and members of the consortium of banks in the Sterling Biotech Limited case to take charge on the movable and immovable assets of SEEPCO, both present and future, oil receivables of SEEPCO and the offshore trust and retention accounts into which receivables from the oil trade will be deposited and all other such bank accounts.
Four promoters of the Sterling Biotech Group which included Nitin Sandesara, Chetankumar Sandesara, Dipti Chetan Sandesara and Hiteshkumar Patel, have been absconding from India after defaulting on over Rs. 15,600 crores of loans. They continue to use their affluence and political influence to manipulate the system, Public Sector Banks and have even done their full efforts to delay the one-time settlement of Rs. 2,638 crore till December 2021.
The Sterling group is under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Serious Frauds Investigation Office (SFIO) for fraud and money laundering.
Captain Singh, the whistle-blower, has also filed an intervention application before the Supreme Court in the Richmond Investments Pvt Ltd and Andhra Bank case. On Monday last, the bench of Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice BR Gavai, accepted an oral prayer made by additional solicitor general (ASG) Madhavi Divan and allowed ED and CBI to join the petition as parties.
ASG Divan, during the hearing, also opposed an extension sought by Mukul Rohatgi, counsel for the promoters of Sterling group. The senior counsel informed the bench that the promoters have paid Rs. 371 crore, which he contended was more than the liquidation value of the company.
The matter will now be heard on February 22, next.
To be continued -
In the next part, www.indianpsu.com will examine the nexus between the Sandesara Group and Public Sector Banks