New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday began fresh session of questioning Congress leader Ahmed Patel, a close aide of party interim chief Sonia Gandhi, here at his residence for the fourth time in connection with multi-crore bank fraud case by Gujarat-based Sterling Biotech and Sandesara brothers.
A team of ED officials, including the Investigating Officer and two others, reached Patel’s 23, Mother Teresa Crescent residence in central Delhi around 11 a.m. His statement is being recorded in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) case.
Earlier, the Congress party treasurer was questioned in connection with the case on July 2 for over 10 hours. The Rajya Sabha MP was also questioned on June 27 and June 30.
After his interrogation on July 2, Patel informed the media that ED investigators posed over 128 questions in three sessions. Attacking the ruling NDA government, Patel said, “this is political vendetta and harassment against me and my family and I do not know under whose pressure they (investigators) are working”.
The ED has so far questioned Patel for more than 27 hours at his house as he refused to visit the office of the agency, citing the prevailing COVID-19 guidelines that discourage senior citizens from going out.
According to ED sources, the financial probe agency wants to understand his relation with the Sandesara brothers (Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara and Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara), owners and promoters of the Vadodara-based pharmaceutical firm. The ED wants to understand the mode of transaction that took between the Congress leader and the Sandesara brothers.
Last year, the ED had questioned Patel’s son Faisal Patel about his relations with the Sandesara brothers (Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara and Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara), owners and promoters of the Vadodara-based pharmaceutical firm.
The ED had also confronted Faisal with the statement of Sunil Yadav, an employee of the Sandesara group, in which he had alleged that the son of the Congress leader took his friends to a farm house for a party and all the expenses were borne by Chetan.
The ED suspected that Faisal and his brother-in-law Irfan Siddiqui were close to the Sandesara brothers.
On July 30 last year, the ED had questioned Patel’s son-in-law and advocate Irfan Siddiqui in connection with the probe. According to ED officials, Yadav alleged that Siddiqui and Faisal were given code names by Chetan Sandesara. “Chetan and Gagan referred to Siddiqui as Irfan Bhai,” he said. Irfan’s code name was ‘i2’ and Faisal’s ‘i1’, Yadav had said. He also said, Faisal would take his friends to Pushpanjali Farms for a party and all the expenses were borne by Chetan Sandesara.
The ED registered a money laundering case against the Sandesara brothers and others in August 2017 after a case of alleged bank fraud of Rs 5,700 crore was filed against them by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The ED probe revealed that the Sandesara brothers and others hatched a criminal conspiracy to cheat banks by manipulating figures in the balance sheets of their flagship companies and induce banks to sanction higher loans. The ED has also attached properties to the tune of Rs 9,778 crore of Sterling Biotech in its investigation against the pharmaceutical company and others involving domestic and offshore branches of Indian banks in 2004-12.
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