In more troubles for senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, who is a close aide of party chief Sonia Gandhi, a team of Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Saturday reached his residence and recorded his statement for over eight hours in connection with the alleged multi-crore rupees’ bank fraud by the Gujarat-based Sterling Biotech.
However, the senior Congress leader described the questioning of him by ED as a diversionary tactic by the government to divert attention from India-China and COVID-19 situation in the country.
The team of ED, which arrived at the residence of Patel in central Delhi's 23, Mother Teresa Crescent and recorded his statement till 8 pm under the sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002.
The ED officials have earlier this month asked Patel, who is also Congress treasurer to appear before it on June 8. However, Patel refused to appear before the financial probe agency citing a novel coronavirus pandemic threat.
An ED source related to the development told IANS, "The officials today recorded his statement and we will once again question him again in the coming days as well." The Ed source said that Patel was non-cooperative on many questions related to his relations with Sandesara brothers (Chetan Jayantilal Sandesara and Nitin Jayantilal Sandesara).
The source further said that the agency also wanted to about the charges made by Sunil Yadav, an employee of the Sandesara group who had made sensational revelations against his son.
After ED's questioning speaking to media, Patel said, "Instead of taking action against China, dealing Covid-19 pandemic, they are attacking the opposition. (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi's and (Union Home Minister Amit) Shah's people came and questioned me."
Last year, the ED had also questioned Patel's son Faisal Patel about his relations with the Sandesara brothers, 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 farmhouse to 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 allegedly 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 Puspanjali Farms to 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.