In another shocking twist to the controversial goings-on at major corporate defaulter Sterling group, a judge has recused himself from hearing a matter revealing that he was approached by one of his classmates on behalf of the accused, says a report. The group owes a slew of Indian banks over Rs15,600 crore and the entire promoter group has been negotiating a settlement at less than half what they owe, while holed up in Nigeria.
According to a report from Economic Times
, Dharmendra Rana, additional district and session judge in Delhi said, "he was shocked that he was approached by one of his classmates on behalf of the accused."
Recusing himself, justice Rana referred the matter to the district and sessions judge for relocation of the matter before another judge. However, after seeking consent from the enforcement directorate (ED), the district and session judge referred the matter back to justice Rana as he had already heard the entire case, the report says.
In a separate development, we learn that the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Mumbai police has set up a special investigation team to investigate the Sandesara matter.
Readers will recall that Moneylife has reported extensively on the shenanigans of the group, whose four politically powerful promoters—Nitin Sandesara, Chetankumar Sandesara, Dipti Chetan Sandesara and Hiteshkumar Patel -- who have been absconding from India, continue to manipulate the judicial system. They continue to be under investigation by almost all the elite investigation agencies in India and also have a lookout notice issued against them. And yet, their negotiations with banks not only continue unhindered, but there is no attempt to locate the group’s extensive assets in Nigeria and the US, which we have reported on.
Last month, the Sandesaras came up with a proposal to delay their one-time settlement (OTS) of Rs2,638 crore to December 2021.
This is the balance after paying up a pittance of Rs181 crore as part of their Rs3,100 crore settlement that the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCALT) had said should be completed by 31 March 2020 to avoid liquidation. Why are these Gujarat-based promoters treated so differently from all other borrowers who have faced traumatic losses in the COVID lock-down? And why the sharp contrast from liquor baron Vijay Mallya who has offered full repayment with interest, or even from small borrowers who want the moratorium on their bike loan extended? (Read: Exclusive: Fugitive Sandesara of Sterling Biotech Dictates Terms to Indian Public Sector Banks)
For those who have not followed this scandalous story, the Sandesaras (Nitin, Chetan and Dipti) are absconding and are believed to be holed up in Nigeria where they have extensive businesses.
They have been accused of money laundering and have lookout notices issued against them by every national investigation agency –Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), ED and Serious Frauds Investigation Office (SFIO).
And, yet, Indian public sector banks (PSBs) are working with them to settle the massive outstanding dues of their group, of over Rs15,600 crore, at a 55% haircut through an emissary. The Sandesaras are also pushing banks to file litigation to buy time to make the payment.
Before that, a completely unconnected litigation in the United States has thrown up yet another money trail of the fugitive Sandesara family, the promoters of Sterling Biotech and Sterling SEZ, that owes Indian PSBs vast sums of money.