Richmond Investments Pvt Ltd, owned by Sterling Biotech promoters Sandesaras, have filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, contending that Nigeria and Albania in April and July 2019, respectively, declined to extradite members of the family, the Interpol had refused India’s request for Red Corner Notice, and Indian agencies are acting unilaterally against them.
“No bank had made any complaint, but it was an unilateral act of the investigating agency to register a case on its own based upon purported source information, that too at Delhi where there was neither any operation nor any transaction of the company,” the affidavit said.
Sandesaras had been declared fugitive economic offenders in September last year by a Delhi court on a plea filed by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with a case wherein they have allegedly defrauded Indian banks for at least Rs 15, 600 crore. They are now said to be in Nigeria. The CBI, the ED and the Serious Frauds Investigation Office (SFIO) are investigating the Sterling Group.
The affidavit added that the prayers for Red Corner Notice have been rejected by the Interpol in November 2019, as it did not meet the requisite standard. The company claims that the request for extradition of Nitin Sandesara, Chetan Sandesara, Diptiben Sandesara, and Hiteshkumar Sandesara has also been rejected by Nigeria in 2019.
“The request for extradition has been rejected by Nigeria (in April 2019) because the offence allegedly committed is ‘political in nature’,” it said.
The company claimed that even the Tirana District Court in Albania rejected the request of the Tirana prosecutor’s office for extradition of Hitesh Patel and his personal security measures such as house arrest etc. have been lifted. The family has annexed all these documents with the affidavit in the top court, and also purportedly an official communication from Nigeria government dated April 25, 2019, refusing extradition.
“It is a matter of record that the promoters are facing a frivolous prosecution including under PMLA for alleged default in payment towards the loan accounts. these prosecutions/cases are obviously motivated on account of extraneous & malafide consideration,” said the affidavit.
Richmond Investments filed this affidavit in connection with a one-time-settlement deal of Rs 3,110 crore between Sandesaras and the banks. The affidavit said on the one hand, the promoters are entering into the OTS despite being persecuted, while on the other hand, on the pretext of them being declared as fugitive economic offenders, the OTS is being sought to be scrapped.
The company alleged at every step, the ED has been placing unnecessary roadblocks in the implementation of the OTS. “If fact, the ED has been overawing and browbeating the banks and it is for this reason, the lead bank i.e. Andhra Bank is making a turnaround and trying to wriggle out of the OTS which would fetch at least 10 times more than the liquidation amount,” the affidavit said.
Captain Sukhpal Singh, the whistle-blower and an intervenor, urged the top court to direct the Andhra Bank and other lender banks and members of the consortium of banks in the Sterling Biotech Ltd case to take first charge on movable and immovable assets of Sterling Exploration and Energy Production Company Ltd – Nigeria, both present and future, its oil receivables, and the offshore trust and retention account(s) into which such receivables will be deposited and all other such bank account(s).
On February 22, the Supreme Court had directed Richmond Investments to pay up OTS of Rs 3,110 crore by March end and declined to give any extra time. So far, the company has deposited Rs 371 crore.
A bench headed by Justice R.F. Nariman had rejected the company’s request seeking extension till March next year. Refusing extension, the top court told Richmond Investments counsel that figures are staggering and stressed they should pay up.
(Sumit Saxena can contacted at email@example.com)