ED quizzes Patel in PMLA case; Congress slams govtUpdated: Jun 27, 2020, 23:53 IST
New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Saturday questioned senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel for eight hours over his purported links with the Sandesara brothers of the Sterling Biotech group, who fled the country in 2017 after defrauding banks of several thousand crore rupees, officials said.
The officials, who requested anonymity, said Patel, 70, who was political secretary to Sonia Gandhi when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was in power between 2004 and 2014, was questioned at his residence -- 23, Mother Teresa Crescent -- in Delhi by a three-member ED team. He was earlier summoned for questioning, but the leader cited Covid-19 guidelines and expressed his inability to visit the agency.
The health ministry had issued an advisory for citizens above 65 years to stay at home to protect themselves against the coronavirus pandemic.
Patel, who was supposed to appear at the ED office on June 8, had also pointed out that cases of the disease had surfaced in the agency, which told him that its officers were willing to visit his home because taking the probe forward in the case was important.
The Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament from Gujarat, officials said, was asked questions about his links with Nitin and Chetan Sandesara and claims made by certain witnesses.
An employee of the Sandesara Group – Sunil Yadav – had claimed before the ED heran upexpenses of Rs 10 lakh for a party which was attended by Faisal Patel, son of Ahmed Patel, arranged entry in a night club for him (Faisal Patel) and once delivered Rs 5 lakh to his (Faisal Patel’s) driver in Khan Market on the instructions of Chetan Sandesara, officials said. Yadav told the ED investigation team that the money was meant for Faisal Patel, officials added.
Yadav also claimed before the ED that Ahmed Patel’s son Faisal and son-in-law Irfan Siddiqui were even given code names by Chetan Sandesara.
Faisal Patel and Irfan Siddiqui were questioned by ED in August and July 2019 respectively.
The anti-money laundering probe agency is investigating fraud worth over Rs 14,500 crore by Sterling Biotech and its promoters - Nitin, Chetan and Deepti Sandesara.
They have been absconding since 2017 and are said to be hiding in Nigeria. An Interpol red cornernotice request is also pending against them.
The Sandesaras are being probed by multiple agencies including the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the income tax department .
An investigation against the Vadodara-based Sterling Biotech began in 2017 when CBI registered a case for alleged fraud of Rs 5,000croreon a consortium led by Andhra Bank.
The ED has claimed that the fraud is bigger than the Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud to the tune of how much moneyinvolving Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.
In June 2019, ED attached moveable and immovable properties worth Rs 9,778 crores belonging to the Sandesaras including four oil rigs and oil fields in Nigeria and several ships apart from a Gulfstream aircraft and flat in London.
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said: “If you need to probe something, then why don’t you probe the names that appeared in the Sahara diary? There are some important people who are now power, why can’t CBI launch a probe against them? The (ED raid) is a motivated move that is aimed to divert attention from the bigger issues that have come up before the country.”