Fugitive Sandesaras Claim “Religious Persecution” due to Ahmed Patel Link; Say

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Fugitive Sandesaras Claim “Religious Persecution” due to Ahmed Patel Link; Say they are Victims of “Malfunctioning” Banking System

At a time when the government wants to create a ‘bad bank’ to transfer non-performing loans of corporate India owed to public sector banks (PSBs), the story of the Sterling group provides an astonishing picture of how several thousand crores of rupees of outstanding dues are being wiped out in collusion with PSBs, agencies and the government. 

 

The fugitives, Gujarat-based promoters of the Sterling Biotech group holed up in Nigeria, have managed to beat India’s extradition attempt in 2019, by claiming that they are facing ‘religious and political persecution’. They also got the Interpol to cancel a red-alert. These startling facts were revealed recently in documents submitted in the Supreme Court (matter MA-972 of 2020) through Richmond Investments Pvt Ltd. Meanwhile, the Sandesaras continue to calmly lobby to regain control over their Indian companies, by paying just the principal amount, which is 35% of their total outstanding dues. 

 

Astonishingly, their claim of religious persecution is based on their ‘strong affiliation’ with the late Congress leader ‘Ahmed Patel, who is a Muslim’. These charges have been accepted by courts in Nigeria and Albania to deny their extradition to India. (see excerpts from orders below) 

 

 

The Sterling group runs a flourishing oil business in Nigeria and the US, making it perfectly capable of paying up their entire dues to the Indian banking system, mostly PSBs. Stunningly, in these days of hyper nationalism, when a 22-year old environmental activist is jailed for eight days and slapped with serious sedition charges, the Sandesaras’ claims against India have not even found a mention in the mainstream media, although they are being investigated by every top investigative agency. 

 

Moneylife has reported extensively on the shenanigans of this fugitive group; but let us look at the recent developments sequentially, going backward from the latest Supreme Court (SC) order in February 2021. Sometime in 2019, the Sandesaras managed to get Sterling Biotech out of the bankruptcy proceedings by negotiating a small one-time-settlement (OTS) with its creditors — mainly Indian PSBs. But the Sandesaras have been delaying even this payment and re-negotiating its terms for the past two years.

 

In the latest litigation (Miscellaneous Application No. 972/2020 in C.A. No. 9473/2019), the group sought time to delay the payment by another year, to 31 March 2022, and to pay the money in four instalments starting June 2021. Meanwhile, their oil business in Nigeria is flourishing and these oil companies continue to do business with India. A YouTube video of 2020 sent to me shows a lavish corporate event hosted by the Sandesaras’ oil company in Nigeria, where Mr Sandesara claims that his oil companies contribute 2% to the Nigerian exchequer. And, yet, they want a settlement in India without paying interest and have almost got away with it. YouTube Video

 

On 22 February 2021, a Supreme Court bench of justice Rohington Fali Nariman and justice BR Gavai disposed Richmond Investments’ petition without granting the extension of time requested by the Sandesaras. If the group pays up the balance of Rs3,110 crore, offered as OTS by the end of this month, they will regain control over their company even while accusing India for persecution. More on this later. 

 

Earlier, on 25April 2019, the attorney general’s office in Nigeria, writing to Sterling Global Oil Resources Ltd on the extradition of the four absconders, said that “after a careful review” of the matter, it has rejected India’s extradition request because “the offences allegedly committed” by the persons appear “political in nature” which is a condition of refusal of extradition in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The letter is signed by the Chief…



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