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ED raids Gujarat firm that defaulted on UPA-era bank loans, Rajya Sabha election funding in focus

Multiple sources said the government suspects the group of mobilising funds for the August 8 Rajya Sabha elections

india Updated: Aug 05, 2017 14:13 IST
Appu Esthose Suresh
Appu Esthose Suresh
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Enforcement Directorate,Rajya Sabha elections,Ahmed Patel
Officials at the Directorate of Enforcement office. The ED, which probes financial crimes, raided the Sandesara group on Saturday. The group’s flagship company, Sterling Biotech, is one of the top 10 defaulters of PSU banks and the loan was declared NPA in 2012. (PTI FILE)

The Enforcement Directorate on Saturday raided the premises of a Gujarat-based company which allegedly defaulted on an estimated Rs 1,700 crore loan from public sector banks during the previous Congress-led UPA government’s tenure.

The group’s flagship company Sterling Biotech is one of the top 10 defaulters of public sector (PSU) banks and the loan was declared non-performing asset (NPA) in 2012.

Though the loan default is cited as the official reason for the raids, multiple sources said the government suspects the group of mobilising funds for the August 8 Rajya Sabha elections.

“Sandesara group siphoned off substantial amount of bank money through bogus exports and parked in offshore companies in Nigeria, US and Dubai. This is part of government’s crack down on wilful defaulter,” a source in the ED’s Gujarat unit told HT on the condition of anonymity. The ED is yet to make an official statement.

Nitin Sandesara, chairman and managing director of the group, did not respond to text messages and phone calls from HT.

In the Rajya Sabha elections from Gujarat, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, a close aide of party party president Sonia Gandhi, is the opposition candidate

and is pitted against a former party leader who joined the BJP recently along with two other MLAs.

The Congress has accused the BJP of using money and muscle power to lure its MLAs ahead of the polls. BJP president Amit Shah and Union minister Smriti Irani are also in the fray.

The Congress flew 42 of its Gujarat MLAs last week to a resort in Bengaluru to prevent the BJP from poaching them.

Three days ago, Income Tax officials raided properties of a Karnataka minister who is hosting the Gujarat MLAs at the resort. The Congress termed the raids a “witch hunt”.

A bank employees’ union, which had first raised the issue of NPAs on PSU banks, had cited the Sandesara group as an instance of poor loan assessment. The group was allegedly given loan with significantly insufficient collateral.

Analysis | What one Rajya Sabha election says about Indian politics

First Published: Aug 05, 2017 11:38 IST