Once based in Gujarat’s Vadodara, the Sandesara brothers began by producing and trading tea and graduated to the manufacture of gelatin used in the country’s pharma industry.
By the time they fled the country after the CBI closed in on them in 2017, the brothers controlled as many as 340 companies, including 92 abroad, and were in the energy, construction and healthcare sectors, with the group’s estimated worth being $7 billion, according to investigators.
With the astronomical rise in their wealth, they lived in opulence, establishing palatial properties and hobnobbing with Bollywood stars. They also owned private jets.
In 2017, the CBI, New Delhi, accused them and their company of cheating and criminal conspiracy. Later, ED officials charged their Sterling Biotech firm with illicitly acquiring and laundering as estimated $700 million for the benefit of its “promoters,” including the Sandesara brothers and Diptiben, wife of Chetan Sandesara, as well as their associate Hitesh Patel.
The Central agencies had stated that the family’s companies had obtained the money by fraudulently obtaining loans from various Indian banks, to the tune of over $1.1 billion by 2019. This money was siphoned off through shell companies which had Sterling Biotech’s associates and even staff as their shareholders and directors.
Meanwhile, according to reports, the Sandesaras are, as of now, reportedly moving about freely in Albania and Nigeria, where their businesses, including oil and construction, are believed to be roaring.
What's happening now?
The Enforcement Directorate tweeted on Friday that it had provisionally attached movable and immovable properties worth Rs 8.79 crore under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in the case of the fraud with banks by the Sandesara Group.
With this, the total attachments have reached Rs 14,521.80 crore. The attachments include eight immovable properties, three vehicles and several bank accounts as also shared and mutual funds, it said.
The attached assets belong to Bollywood actor and director Sanjay Khan (Rs 3 crore), Irfan Ahmed Siddiqui (Rs 2.41 crore), popular disc jockey DJ Aqeel Abdulkhalil Bachooali (Rs 1.98 crore) and Bollywood actor Dino Morea (Rs 1.40 crore). The Sandesara Brothers had allegedly transferred the assets to these four to cover up their bank fraud.
The Sandesara brothers – Nitin and Chetan – along with the latter’s wife Dipti, were declared fugitives last year under Section 4 of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, as they have allegedly fled from India. Hiteshkumar Narendrabhai Patel, the brother-in-law of the Sandesaras is also among the accused.
The ED has claimed that its probe revealed that the Sandesaras have diverted proceeds of crime of Rs 3 crore, Rs 1.4 crore, Rs 12.54 crore and Rs 3.51 crore to Sanjay Khan, Dino Morea, Aqeel Bachooali and Irfan Ahmed Siddiqui respectively.
So far, the ED has filed four charge sheets and arrested four in the bank scandal.
Earlier, the ED had attached movable/immovable properties to the tune of Rs 14,513 crore vide 08 provisional attachment orders in relation to this case. With this attachment, the total attachment in this case has reached Rs 14,521.80 Crore. The total proceeds of crime in this case is more than Rs 16,000 crore, the agency added.