CBI books Dhoot, Chanda Kochhar; conducts raids in Videocon-ICICI Bank Rs 1,730-cr loan case (Third Lead)

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Mumbai/New Delhi, Jan 24 (IANS) In a significant development, the CBI on Thursday lodged an FIR against former ICICI Bank chief Chanda Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar and industrialist V.N. Dhoot besides four companies, and raided four locations in Maharashtra in connection with a Rs 3,250-crore loan involving the Videocon Group and the ICICI Bank, informed sources said here.

The raids were conducted after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered an FIR on Tuesday naming former ICICI Bank MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar, her husband and NuPower Renewables Pvt Ltd MD Deepak Kochhar, and Videocon Group MD Dhoot, and others in the case dating back to 2009-2012.

Interestingly, Chanda Kochhar’s role in the alleged irregularities committed has been highlighted in the CBI’s FIR ever since she assumed charge as the ICICI Bank MD and CEO on May 1, 2009.

Besides, four companies have also been named in the CBI FIR: NuPower Renewables Pvt Ltd (NRL), Supreme Energy Pvt Ltd (SEPL), Videocon International Electronics Ltd (VIEL) and Videocon Industries Ltd (VIL).

According to the FIR, they have been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act as the accused allegedly “sanctioned loans to private companies in a criminal conspiracy with other accused to cheat ICICI Bank”.

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The FIR comes in the wake of a preliminary enquiry (PE) instituted on March 31, 2018, against Deepak Kochhar, Videocon Group officials and others to determine whether any wrongdoing was involved in the sanctioning of loan by the ICICI Bank as part of a consortium, a senior CBI official said.

The raids were carried out simultaneously at the offices of the four companies in south Mumbai and one location belonging to Videocon in Aurangabad.

The Bureau initiated the PE after news reports raised questions about Videocon’s Dhoot allegedly providing crores to a firm promoted by Deepak Kochhar and a few relatives six months after the former’s Group received the Rs 3,250-crore loan.

The CBI probe said that a complaint was received regarding the Rs 3,250-crore loan to five of Dhoot’s companies by the ICICI Bank violating banking norms and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines.

As part of a quid pro quo, Dhoot invested Rs 64 crore in NRL and SEPL and also transferred SEPL to Deepak Kochhar’s Pinnacle Energy Trust through a circuitous route between 2010 and 2012.

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Between June 2009 and October 2011, the ICICI Bank also sanctioned six high-value loans to different Videocon Group companies and on August 28, 2009, Rs 300 crore was sanctioned to VIEL in contravention of various rules, with Chanda Kochhar being part of the loan sanctioning committee.

She has been charged with criminal conspiracy to cheat the ICICI Bank, abusing her position. The loan was disbursed to VIEL on September 7.

The very next day, on September 8, 2009, through SEPL, VIEL transferred Rs 64 crore to Deepak Kochhar’s NRL by which it (NRL) acquired its first power plant.

“Thus, Chanda Kochhar got illegal gratification through her husband from VIL and Dhoot, for sanctioning Rs 300 crore to VIEL,” the CBI complaint said.

The CBI has also detailed the manipulations how the NRL and SEPL’s control was handed over to Deepak Kochhar, where the subsequent alleged frauds were committed.

In violation of several norms, the ICICI Bank also sanctioned various loans to Videocon Group companies which was utilised by them to repay their unsecured loans taken from VIL, while VIL took a loan to refinance its existing loans.

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The loan sanction committees had ICICI Bank’s senior officials like Sandeep Bakshi, K. Ramkumar, Sonjoy Chatterjee, N.S. Kannan, Zarin Daruwala, Rajiv Sabharwal, K.V. Kamath and Homi Khusrokhan.

“These loans have turned NPAs resulting in wrongful losses to the ICICI Bank, and wrongful gains to the borrower/ accused persons. The role of these senior officials of the sanctioning committees may also be investigated,” said the CBI FIR.

It added that the ICICI Bank had released the security of Rs 50 crore in the form of FDR available for two of the borrowing (Dhoot) companies “without any justification”.

After Chanda Kochhar took charge at the bank’s helm, the credit limits and loans were sanctioned to Videocon Group companies, with her as part of the sanctioning committees.

Following the controversy over the alleged “conflict of interests” and “non-disclosure” in the loans sanctioned by the ICICI Bank, Chanda Kochhar, 56, quit her post seeking premature retirement on October 4, 2018.

–IANS

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