India’s Enforcement Directorate has seized the oil assets of Sandesaras group of companies by issuing a court order on the group’s oil assets in Nigeria which include four oil rigs, an oil field ships and aircraft.
Sandesaras group, the company in question is owned by two brothers Nitan and ChetanSandesara. Its Nigerian arm Sterling Global Oil Resources Ltd is active in five wells and currently produces about 25,000 barrels of oil per day from two fields; Okwuibome and Anieze, both in the Oil Mining Lease (OML) 143.
“The attached properties include four oil rigs and oil field namely OML 143, located in Nigeria, in the name of Sterling Energy Exploration Pvt Co Ltd, Nigeria; ships TuljaBhawani, Varinda, Bhavya, Brahmanietc registered in Panama and held in the name of Atlantic Blue Water Services; an aircraft Gulfstream 200 registered in the US and in the name of SAIB LLC; besides a residential flat in London,” the India’s Enforcement Agency told India Times said.
OML 143 is located in thickly forested terrain in the northern Niger Delta. It contains two producing fields, Okwuibome – discovered by Shell in 1979 – and the smaller Anieze field.
India’s Enforcement Agency claimed the Sandesara group have not only siphoned off bank loans to finance their Nigeria oil business but also for their personal purposes.
“It was revealed during investigations that funds were rotated through various structures and ultimately parked in Nigeria to cater to the personal interests of the main promoters,” India’s Enforcement Agency said in a statement.
Sandesara brothers allegedly adopted various strategies such as incorporating multiple shell companies, conducting circular transactions to artificially inflate turnover of the flagship firms, claiming higher depreciation on non-existing machinery to avoid tax liabilities, artificial share trading with the shell firms, layering and laundering of the proceeds of crime within India and abroad.
The probing agency said the brothers used their employees’ names and incorporated 249 domestic and 96 offshore shell companies.
With this order, the total attachment against Sandesara group has exceeded $210 million (Rs 14,500). Last year, the ED had attached over $68.1 million (Rs 4,700) crore of assets belonging to group company Sterling Biotech Ltd and its subsidiaries. Its promoters ChetanSandesara and NitinSandesara are suspected to be in Nigeria.
Recall, in November 2011, the company celebrated the production of one million barrels of Brent crude from Nigeria at its Vadodara headquarters. The company had set an ambitious target of ramping up production from 10,000 barrels per day to 100,000 barrels in a period of five years.
“When we decided we get into oil business in early 2001- 2002, we wanted to make it big and not remain on the fringe,” NitinSandesara, the group’s chairman said in an interview.
When contacted, ChetanSandesara told live mint publication in March last year that with their oil and gas business in Nigeria growing strongly, they aimed to be a “debt –free group in the next few months.”
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