Another Albanian Citizen Linked to Pandora Papers

The Sandesara brothers, who received Albanian citizenship shortly after fleeing India over a $2.1 billion fraud case, have been revealed as owning a complex web of offshore companies as a part of the Pandora Papers leak.

The leak of documents from several corporate service providers implicated hundreds of politicians, leaders, celebrities, and influential business people, in the act of concealing assets and wealth in offshore companies.

Nitin Sandesara has been revealed to have opened a string of six companies in the British Virgin Islands and other offshore jurisdictions. He claimed the companies were for keeping his savings, not the billions defrauded from Indian banks.

A former executive for the Sandesara’s company, Deepak Barot, also has an Albanian company. Halcon Oil & Gas Limited was incorporated on 6 October 2020 with the involvement of a Nigerian law firm.

A former employee, chartered accountant Hemant Sanmukhrai Hathi said that it was common for the family to set up accounts in the names of their inner circle and then use them to facilitate fraud and launder money.

Nitin and his brother Chetan have been under investigation since 2017 and were declared as wanted by the Indian authorities.

Indian Money Laundering Suspects Expand their Network Further into Albania

Despite their fugitive status, they came to Albania and were granted citizenship by President Ilir Meta in 2018.

Then in January 2019, Nitin was granted the position of honorary consul to Albania, a title he then lost just three months later.

In March 2019, while attempting to board their private jet at Tirana International Airport, Patel, believed to be the brother-in-law of Chetan, was held back and arrested. The other family members were allowed to continue despite the red notices against them. They took off and flew over Sicily and are believed to now be in Nigeria.

In 2019, Exit explained how the family was awarded citizenship while being fugitives. It also explained how they were investing in the country in construction work, reportedly being carried out around by the lake in Tirana and at a resort on the coast.

The OCCRP reported that the sum of their investments is around $33 million. Border information seen by the OCCRP has confirmed that the brothers have been able to move in and out of Albania freely with no issue, despite requests from India for their extradition.

While the Interpol red notice reportedly has been lifted, Chetan has continued to travel into Albania multiple times since March 2020 and as recently as January 2021.

Brothers Wanted by Indian Authorities Believed to Still Be in Albania despite Attempts to Extradite Them

When asked, Albanian police said the Sandesara’s weren’t wanted locally or internationally but were being investigated for money laundering. Tirana’s Prosecutor’s Office said that a request to extradite them had been made, thus contradicting the police’s comments.

Questions were raised as to how they managed to get Albanian citizenship. An investigation revealed that they were clients of Henley and Partners. The same company threw an event in London where Prime Minister Edi Rama announced he would be selling Albanian citizenship in return for investments in the country.

In November 2016, they engaged Henley and Partners, an international cash-for-passports concessionaire, to do background checks on them, as confirmed by the existence of a large selection of documents. Both brothers then attempted to apply for various passports, including Antigua & Barbuda, Grenada, and Cyprus.

Documents seen by The Shift News that include invoices, payments, retainers, correspondence, and due diligence documents, show that this relationship continued until at least September 2017.

They were unsuccessful in their attempts to get citizenship, most likely due to the bad press around the fraud and the extradition orders against them.

Then in February and March 2017, Henley and Partners executives visited Albania on two occasions. Firstly, Steffen Juerg, Group CEO, visited on 3 February, and then Stefan Krauss, COO, on 27 February. It’s not known what the purpose of their visit was.