In one more shocking twist to the controversial goings-on at major corporate defaulter Sterling group, it has been revealed that the fugitive Sandesara family is not only dictating terms to Indian public sector banks (PSBs) but has also continued to do business with the State-run oil companies.
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 Corp Ltd (IOC) 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, Mr 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 Rs365.80 crore, which was imported by IOC. 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.
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 Ltd 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.
As reported by Moneylife
, the four politically powerful promoters of the Sterling Biotech group (Nitin Sandesara, Chetankumar Sandesara, Dipti Chetan Sandesara and Hiteshkumar Patel) have been absconding from India after running up over Rs15,600 crore of bad loans. They continue to manipulate the judicial system, string banks along and, now, have come up with a proposal to delay their one-time settlement (OTS) of Rs2,638 crore to December 2021. (Read: Exclusive: Fugitive Sandesara of Sterling Biotech Dictates Terms to Indian Public Sector Banks)
The Sterling group is under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), enforcement directorate (ED) and the 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, 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 Rs371 crore, which he contended was more than the liquidation value of the company.
The next hearing in this matter is scheduled on 22 February 2021.
In a letter to finance minister (FM) Nirmala Sitharaman dated 2 May 2020, Captain Sukhpal Singh alleges that Indian banks, “despite having first ranking charge on the present and future movable and immovable assets of SEEPCO, Nigeria, are not taking any steps to implement their rights over these assets.”
The global companies of the group include, Sterling Global Oil Resources Pvt Ltdn Mauritius (SGORPL), Sterling Biotech Ltd (SBL), Sterling SEZ & Infrastructure Ltd (SSEZ), Sterling Port Ltd (SPL) and PMT Machines Ltd (PMT), and Indian banks had, in the past, extracted some hold over these resources of Sandesaras for failure to pay their outstanding loans.
Captain Singh has also filed an intervention application-IA before the SC in this matter. He says, the Nigerian companies of Sandesaras are doing well and Indian banks have legal rights over their assets and can even seize consignments ‘at the place of discharge’.
The admitted claims of PSBs like Andhra Bank (now Union Bank of India), Bank of India and, Bank of Baroda and State Bank of India (SBI) against Sterling group are about Rs2,772 crore as against original claims of Rs5,732.08 crore. "This is public money and it is the duty of the PSBs to recover this amount from the defaulter," Captain Singh says.