New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday moved a Special Court in Delhi against the promoters of Sterling Biotech to get the latter declared fugitive economic offenders. Those named are Nitin Sandesara, Chetan Sandesara, Dipti Sandesara and Hitesh Patel. They have reportedly fled the country to avoid a criminal investigation in their alleged role in the Rs 8,100-crore bank loan fraud case. Delhi’s Patiala House Court has sought a reply from them on ED’s plea. (Also read: Sterling Director Arrested in Dubai)

The central agency has filed a plea before a special court of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), seeking to declare Nitin Sandesara, Chetan Sandesara, Dipti Sandesara and Hitesh Patel fugitives under Section 4 of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, brought by the Modi government this year to check cases of large bank frauds and similar crimes. According to the ED, its investigation had revealed that the Sandersara brothers and others had manipulated figures in the balance sheets of their flagship companies and induced banks to sanction higher loans. The fraud pertains to domestic as well as offshore branches of Indian Banks. Prosecution complaint has been filed against seven accused individuals and 184 companies, read an ED statement.

“All the four are promoters of the Sterling Group and have fled the country to avoid criminal probe against them in a Rs 8,100-crore bank loan fraud involving a consortium of banks,” a senior official said. The agency has also sought confiscation of the assets worth over Rs 5,000 crore of the Vadodara-based business family as part of the action under the fugitive law.

The agency has filed a fresh charge-sheet in this case, under the PMLA, early this week and had charged the Sandesaras and others with money laundering and siphoning off bank loans. While the Sandesaras are reported to be based in Nigeria, Patel is said to be in the US. The ED had made similar pleas, under the new fugitive law, against Vijay Mallya and diamond jewellers Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi in separate bank loan money-laundering probes.