Sandesara Brothers case: Congress leader Ahmed Patel questioned by Enforcement Directore (File)
The Enforcement Directorate questioned senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel on Saturday in connection with a multi-crore money laundering case involving Gujarat-based firm Sterling Biotech and the main promoters of the Sterling Group - the Sandesara brothers.
A three-member team of the agency visited Mr Patel at his residence in central Delhi to record his statement under the PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act).
Mr Patel, 70, had previously been summoned for questioning twice by the agency but cited the lockdown and the COVID-19 outbreak guidelines that asks senior citizens to stay indoors; the virus is believed to be particularly dangerous to those above 65 years of age.
The case pertains to a probe against Chetan and Nitin Sandesara, and a few others, over alleged multi-crore bank fraud by Sterling Biotech.
The original charge-sheet, filed after a complaint made by the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and under the various provisions of PMLA, accused the company of taking loans from a consortium led by Andhra Bank which had turned into non-performing assets (NPAs) or bad loans.
The charge sheet said the accused manipulated figures in the balance sheets of their flagship companies and induced banks to sanction higher loans.
In 2018 the agency told the court that the main accused, including the Sandesara brothers, may have fled the country to avoid criminal prosecution.
It also told the court that it suspected the accused could be residing in Nigeria because they had extensive business interests there.
The agency also said that investigations had revealed that nearly 250 companies had been incorporated in the country by the promoters of Sterling Biotech, of which 200 were found to be 'benami' entities used to siphon loan funds obtained from various banks.
Also in 2018 a Delhi court directed the Enforcement Directorate to file charges against a man for allegedly sending Rs 25 lakh cash to the official residence of a senior Congress leader in Delhi.
Mr Patel, a Rajya Sabha MP from the state, was also summoned by the Income Tax Department in March in connection with a tax evasion probe linked to monetary transactions of his party.
He was sent a notice to appear in his capacity as the party's treasurer. Mr Patel told news agency PTI that he was surprised to see the summons.
"Our accounts are transparent and clear. Better they (the I-T department) should have looked at the record-breaking donations of the BJP. They have called me and I will definitely go, but I do not know the reason why they have called me," he said.