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Steling group fraud case: Gujarat cancels Dahej port contract given to Sandesara brothers

PTI     July 8, 2019

The Gujarat government Monday canceled all permissions granted to the bankrupt Sterling group promoted by the absconding Sandesara brothers to develop an all-weather port in Dahej.

The absconding promoters of the Sterling group-- Nitin and Chetan Sandesara--are alleged to have defrauded over Rs 14,500 crore of public money. Two of their flagships--Sterling Biotech and Sterling SEZ are in bankruptcy tribunals now.

Both the bothers are absconding since their names came up in the bank loan scam and money laundering activities and federal agencies began probing them.

"Chief minister Vijay Rupani today decided to cancel all the permissions given for building an all-weather berthing port at Dahej to Sterling Ports of Nitin Sandesara," the chief minister's office said in a statement Monday.

"Rupani has also directed the Gujarat Maritime Board to recover the amount that the company had to pay as bank guarantees and also to take re-possession of the 84.95 hectares given to the company for developing the port," the statement added.

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The Gujarat Maritime Board and a consortium led by Sterling Biotech had entered into an agreement to develop the Dahej port as an all-weather direct berthing port in 2009.

Following this, the board had handed over 84.95 hectares to the group in 2010.

The Sterling consortium had formed a new company-- Sterling Port-to develop the port and had also signed a concession agreement in 2014 with the board.

As per the agreement, the company was to invest Rs 2,500 crore in the first phase and had to deposit 1.5 percent of the equity along with another Rs 5 crore as performance guarantee with the maritime board.

But the company is yet to start any work on the port, government officials said, adding it even failed to deposit Rs 37.50 crore which it had to pay as bank guarantee to the government.

ALSO READ: Sterling Biotech scam bigger than Nirav-Choksi; Sandesaras took Rs 9,000 cr loan from Indian banks overseas: ED

Earlier in the day, the board of directors of the maritime board met and recommended to cancel the contract, they said, adding following this, the chief minister ordered cancellation of all the agreements and permissions given to the Sandesara group.

The Sandesaras brothers are alleged to have committed bank frauds to the tune of Rs 14,500 crore of the one by Sterling Biotech alone is around Rs 8,100 crore, according to the Enforcement Directorate. The brothers have been absconding since the federal agency CBI registered a bank fraud case against them in 2017.

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