Two Indian fugitives who are being probed by the country’s CBI, Enforcement Directorate, and Income Tax Department, are believed to still be in Albania. According to reports in Indian media, the authorities are still attempting to extradite them.
Nitin Sandesara and Chetankumar Sandesara, two brothers are accused of fraud to the tune of USD 725 million. It was reported that they were living in Albania and constructing apartment buildings in the country.
The charges of fraud related to a pharmaceutical company “Sterling Biotech” that they owned. Between 2008 and 2011, they borrowed more than $725 million from Indian state banks. The money was then alleged to have disappeared through a network of 300 offshore companies that they had created.
In January 2017 the Indian Economic Crime Agency arrested a senior official at Andra Bank, one of one of the banks that loaned the Sandesara brothers money. Then in June 2018, Indian authorities blocked properties owned by Sterling Biotech which had filed for insolvency. The brothers fled India and the authorities believed they had escaped to Nigeria.
They acquired Albanian citizenship in February 2018 and set up a construction company near Tirana’s Artificial Lake where they began constructing apartment buildings. The process for acquiring Albanian citizenship involves extensive checks conducted by the Secret Service. Yet, they did not pick up on the Sterling Biotech issue that was widely reported in the media, nor did they note the freezing of their assets.
Then in September 2018, a New Delhi court issued arrest warrants for the Sandesara brothers. By December, the Indian Enforcement Directorate had decided to seek Interpol arrest warrants and extradition request for both brothers.
In February 2019, Nitin was officially received by the at-the-time Prime Minister of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj. This was several months after the Indian authorities had issued arrest warrants for them. According to the media, the two had discussed the possibility of investing in Kosovo.
In January 2019, Nitin Sandesara was appointed as the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Albania in Nigeria.
The Albanian Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs released a statement saying they had terminated the functions of his role and denying that they were involved in issuing him a passport.
Then on 20 March 2019, one of Sandesara’s accomplices, Hitesh Patel was arrested in Tirana. This was in relation to an Interpol red corner notice that was issued nine days earlier at the request of Indian authorities. He was subsequently extradited to India.
Meanwhile in India, the case is still being probed by multiple agencies and questioning of suspects is ongoing. Progress is hampered however due to the fact that the whereabouts of the brothers is unknown and if they are in Albania, attempts to extradite them have been unsuccessful.