The Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has asked the Interpol unit of Nigeria to locate the owner of Sterling Biotech, Nitin Sandesara and his family members there.
The development comes a day after TOI exclusively reported that Nitin Sandesara, his brother Chetan Sandesara and sister-in-law Deeptiben Sandesara have moved to Nigeria from UAE.
Highly places sources told TOI that Sandesaras could be hiding at Victoria Island, Lagos from where they run their oil exploration company – Sterling Oil Exploration and Energy Production Company Limited (SEEPCO). Sandesaras reportedly run four oil rigs from the same addresses – Plot Number 205, Abiola Segun Ajayi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, according to the sources.
Several employees of Sterling companies in Nigeria were abruptly removed from jobs in last few years as investigations began against the group.
TOI tried to contact several former and current employees of companies of Sandesaras but could not reach them. The company’s phone numbers in Nigeria are also non-operational. The company claims that SEEPCO is the only private company with Indian patronage to produce oil from any OPEC country.
Officials hinted that Nitin Sandesara still has a lot of clout in Nigeria as he has four oil production companies there and he could still be making huge money in dollars as investigations against him in India doesn’t affect his businesses abroad, especially Nigeria where there are chances that he can influence the authorities with money.
CBI sources said that if Sandesaras’ are traced in Nigeria, they will consider sending a formal request for their deportation as there is no extradition treaty with Nigeria.
TOI exclusively reported on Monday that Sandesaras are not in Dubai anymore and they have fled to Nigeria. Earlier reports about his detention in Dubai in August, 2018 were incorrect, according to the officials.
It is not known if the Sandesaras travelled to Nigeria on Indian passports or some other country’s document. The CBI and the ED have booked Vadodara-based Sterling Biotech, its directors Nitin, Chetan and Dipti Sandesara, Rajbhushan Omprakash Dixit, Vilas Joshi, chartered accountant Hemant Hathi, former Andhra Bank director Anup Garg and unidentified persons for cheating banks of Rs 5,000 crore.
The ED arrested Delhi-based businessman Gagan Dhawan and Garg and attached assets worth Rs 4,700 crore of the pharmaceutical firm in June.
However, officials said bringing the Sandesaras back to India to face criminal trial was important as they had diverted huge amounts of money abroad.
It is alleged that the Sandesaras set up more than 300 shell and benami companies in India and abroad which were used to divert loans. Investigators are trying to find out about their properties and businesses in Africa.