ICICI probe widens, 24 loans from Chanda Kochhar era under lens

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), investigating links between former ICICI Bank managing director and chief executive officer Chanda Kochhar and the Videocon Group, has expanded its probe into a total of 24 loans aggregating Rs 7,862 crore that, it believes, were loaned “illegally and criminally” by the bank to the conglomerate when she was in charge between 2009 and 2018.

Both ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which started looking at quid-pro-quos between Videocon Group chief Venugopal Dhoot and Kochhar after it emerged (courtesy, a whistle-blower) that the businessman was an investor in Kochhar’s husband, Deepak Kochhar’s company, were initially focusing on six high-value loans worth Rs 1,875 crore given by the bank to Videocon Group companies between 2009 and 2011, as alleged in the CBI FIR.

According to an internal investigation report of ED, exclusively reviewed by HT, the total loans — fresh loans or renewal of loans, guarantees — worth Rs7,862.20 crore were sanctioned by the private bank to Videocon Group companies between May 2009 and June 2017.

Some of these loans were as high as Rs 2,870 crore (April, 26, 2012, to Videocon Industries Limited [VIL] and its group companies); the most recent was on June 28, 2017 (~166.4 crore to VIL).

Other big loans now being investigated by ED include a Rs 536 crore loan to VIL on September 15, 2016; a Rs 881.4 crore loan, also to VIL, on October 31, 2011; Rs 236 crore to VIL on December 23, 2015; and Rs 180 crore to Videocon Hydrocarbons Holdings Ltd on September 30, 2014.

CBI and ED both allege that the payment of Rs 64 crore into a Deepak Kochhar company, NuPower Renewables, in 2009 was a quid pro quo from Dhoot for a loan to VIL.

ED also suspects that considering the long association between the Videocon Group and the Kochhars, and with both ICICI Bank and Videocon having operations in India and abroad, there is a “possibility of generation and infusion of proceeds of crimes further in the case”, according to the agency’s internal investigation report.

Asserting that it needs to further probe money laundering in the matter since the loan amount sanctioned “illegally and criminally by the ICICI Bank” is more than Rs 7,000 crore, the report adds that “it appears that more suspected payments may be unearthed in the thorough probe”.

Dhoot declined comment and ICICI Bank did not respond to an

e-mail seeking comment. Kochhars’ lawyer Vijay Aggarwal also did not comment.

ED has also termed the flat at CCI Chambers in Churchgate, Mumbai, where Chanda Kochhar lives, as an “illegal gain”; she has lived there since 1997. It was alleged that this flat was owned by a Videocon entity – QTAPL (Quality Appliances Pvt Ltd, now named Quality Techno Advisors Pvt Ltd), from 2009 till 2016.

ED’s report says: “It is noticed that Chanda Kochhar and Venugopal N Dhoot are known to each other whereas family members of Chanda Kochhar are having joint holding in certain companies with the persons of Videocon group viz in NRPL [NuPower Renewables Pvt Ltd] and SEPL [Supreme Energy Pvt Ltd]. The nexus is evident from the changes in the shareholding patterns in the specified companies into and amongst such persons under a design and plan.”

The agency goes to add that these suspected transfer of funds and changes in the companies have taken place both at the “corporate level” and at the “individual level”.

The former top banker and Padma Bhushan awardee had to step down from the ICICI Bank last October after allegations of misconduct and corruption against her.

First Published:
May 17, 2019 07:04 IST

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