Thursday, April 22, 2021

India: Rs 25 lakh bribe in Sterling Biotech money laundering case


THE DIRECTORATE of Enforcement (ED) has informed a Delhi court that Rs 25 lakh in suspected bribe was delivered to the official residence of senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Ahmed Patel in connection with the money laundering case involving the Sterling Biotech Group. The ED disclosed this information in court on Thursday while seeking custodial remand of one Ranjit Malik in connection with the case.

The Gujarat-based pharmaceutical firm had taken loans amounting to more than Rs 5,000 crore from a consortium of banks led by Andhra Bank, which have turned into non-performing assets. The CBI registered an FIR alleging that the money was diverted by the group to buy various properties. The ED subsequently started investigation into the money laundering case.

Last year, the ED had arrested a Delhi-based businessman named Gagan Dhawan, alleging that he had facilitated directors of Sterling Group in buying properties and “helped them in diverting” bank loans.

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Earlier this week, the ED arrested Ranjit Malik and informed the court that their investigation “indicated” that Malik is an accomplice of Gagan Dhawan and acted as his cash operations manager. According to the ED’s remand application, the agency had summoned Malik “several times”, but he did not appear and did not cooperate in the probe.

The ED informed the court that one Rakesh Chandra, who worked under Malik, had given a statement to the agency last year on delivery of cash at Patel’s residence. In his statement, made on August 25 last year, Chandra had “stated on oath that Ranjit Malik was using him as a delivery boy of cash to various persons”. The ED remand application noted, “On one occasion, he (Chandra) delivered cash of Rs 25 lacs at 23, Mother Teresa Crescent, New Delhi. When Ranjit Malik was asked about such transaction, he gave evasive replies.”

23-Mother Teresa Crescent is Ahmed Patel’s official home address in Delhi. Rakesh Chandra is yet to be arrested. The ED remand application stated that the seized materials, telephone chats and bank account statements contained a “lot of financial transactions”, including cash transaction, which have bearing on the Sterling Biotech case. “Ranjit Malik has not only been non-cooperative and evasive, but also acted as a conduit of Gagan Dhawan, and has been actively involved in money laundering,” the ED told the court.

In December last year, the ED had filed its first prosecution complaint in the case against Gagan Dhawan, where it had recorded the statement of Sunil Yadav, a Sandesara Group employee, who had purportedly claimed that Chetan Sandesara, owner and promoter of Sterling Biotich, and Gagan Dhawan used to allegedly visit Ahmed Patel’s son-in-law with bags full of cash. He had claimed that he had accompanied Dhawan and Chetan Sandesara on “four or five such occasions”, and that after after the alleged cash transactions were completed, the empty bags handed over to him.

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