New Delhi: “Don’t let the shark run away while you are busy in catching the small fish,” a Delhi court told the Enforcement Directorate.
While allowing the ED to have the custody of Delhi-based businessman Gagan Dhawan for two more days in a Rs 5,000 crore money laundering case, Additional Sessions Judge Siddharth Sharma directed the ED to consider making Dhawan an approver.
“Don’t let the shark run away while you are busy in catching the small fish… There must be some bank officials as well. Go after them as well,” the judge said, noting that Dhawan was the only accused arrested in the case so far.
The observation was made after the court was told by ED’s special public prosecutor Nitesh Rana that the proceedings to issue non-bailable warrants against two of the main accused persons — Nitin and Chetan Sandesara, the directors of Sterling Biotech Ltd (SBL) — was in the process.
Dhawan was produced before the court on the expiry of his earlier 7-day custody and the prosecutor sought seven more days to quiz him.
He claimed that Dhawan did not cooperate during the probe and was required to be confronted with evidence so that more property bought from the proceeds of crime, could be obtained.
Dhawan was arrested on October 31 and sent to 7-day ED custody on November 1 by a Delhi court which had said that “a huge amount of public money was allegedly syphoned off.”
The ED had alleged that Dhawan had facilitated the directors of the firm for the purchase of several properties and helped in misusing and diverting the credit facilities of several bank loans totaling Rs 5,000 crore.
“Rs 1.5 crore was received by the accused (Dhawan) from SBL group. Prior to that, the amount of bank loans was rotated in various group companies of SBL group,” the ED had alleged and said that Chetan Sandesara was likely to have left the country.
The defense, however, opposed the remand application, saying the arrest was illegal as he has always cooperated in the investigation.
Dhawan was arrested in an alleged bank fraud case involving the Gujarat-based pharma firm SBL under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). He was on the ED’s radar for allegedly aiding bank loan frauds related to SBL, the Vadodara-based company and few other similar alleged illegal transactions, the ED claimed.
The firm and Dhawan are also being probed by the ED for allegedly bribing senior income tax department officials as part of an earlier criminal complaint. The agency had carried out searches against Dhawan and a former Congress MLA in Delhi in August.
The CBI had recently booked Sterling Biotech, its Directors Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara, Dipti Chetan Sandesara, Rajbhushan Omprakash Dixit, Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara and Vilas Joshi, Chartered Accountant Hemant Hathi, former Director Andhra Bank Anup Garg and other unidentified persons in connection with the alleged bank fraud case.
The CBI has alleged that the company had taken loans of over Rs 5,000 crore from a consortium led by Andhra Bank which has turned into non-performing assets. The FIR has alleged that the total pending dues of the group companies were Rs 5,383 crore as on December 31, 2016.
The ED had taken a cognizance of this FIR to file a money laundering case against them.