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Chanda Kochhar steps down as ICICI Bank CEO: The loan controversy that prompted a probe against her

Chanda Kochhar is facing allegations of quid pro quo, non-adherence to the code of conduct and conflict of interest.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: October 5, 2018 11:35:48 am
icici bank, chanda kochchar, deepak kochchar, icici bank ceo, income tax dept, videocon icici bank deal, indian express ICICI Bank CEO and MD Chanda Kochhar is currently on leave till a probe is completed. (Source: file/Express photo)

ICICI Bank Managing Director and CEO Chanda Kochhar has obtained early retirement and it has been accepted with immediate effect, the board said in a filing with the Bombay Stock Exchange on Thursday. Kochhar will also demit office from the Board of Directors of the bank’s subsidiaries, the board said.

“The enquiry instituted by the Board will remain unaffected by this and certain benefits will be subject to the outcome of the enquiry,” the board said in its filing.

Sandeep Bakshi will take over as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer for a period of five years until October 3, 2023.

HERE IS THE INDIAN EXPRESS INVESTIGATION THAT UNEARTHED THE CONFLICT OF INTEREST.

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Kochhar is facing allegations of quid pro quo, non-adherence to the code of conduct and conflict of interest. Financial dealings between her husband Deepak Kochhar and Videocon Group promoter Venugopal Dhoot have come to light following an investigation by The Indian Express, which have raised questions of propriety and conflict of interest against Kochhar. She has been sent on leave by the bank’s board till the independent probe against her is completed.

Here is a timeline of the events so far:

December 2008: A sweetheart deal?

Videocon promoter Venugopal Dhoot. (file photo)

An investigation by The Indian Express in March 2018 found that Videocon Group promoter Venugopal Dhoot’s company, Supreme Energy, gave a Rs 64-crore loan to a company he had set up with Deepak Kochhar, husband of ICICI Bank MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar, and two of her relatives in 2008.

In a complex web of transactions involving Dhoot and Kochhar, the former had transferred ownership of the company to a trust owned by Kochhar. The sequence of events raised questions of propriety and conflict of interest as the transfer happened six months after the Videocon Group got a Rs 3,250-core loan from ICICI Bank.

The loan was declared a non-performing asset in 2017 as almost Rs 2,810 crore remains unpaid.

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March 28, 2018: Kochhar was on committee that approved Videocon loan

ICICI Bank chairman M K Sharma reveals that Kochhar was part of the credit committee which sanctioned the Rs 3,250-crore loan to Videocon Group.

The ICICI board, he said, doesn’t believe the deal between Deepak Kochhar and Venugopal Dhoot represents a conflict of interest. There was no need for Kochhar to recuse herself from the committee, he said.

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March 31, 2018: CBI investigates allegations

A preliminary enquiry (PE) was registered by the CBI into the alleged nexus between ICICI Bank MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar’s husband Deepak and Videocon group chairman Venugopal Dhoot. The enquiry, however, didn’t name Kochhar.

Officials said a decision to include her name would be taken at a later stage. A preliminary enquiry determines whether there is a prima facie case requiring the registration of an FIR.

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April 2, 2018: Another potential conflict-of-interest link

Videocon loan case: CBI examines Rajiv Kochhar for second day ICICI CEO and MD Chanda Kochhar’s brother-in-law Rajiv Kochhar (In picture) arrived at the CBI HQ at the BKC at 11.30 am on Saturday for questioning by the central agency. (Source; Express photo)

A Singapore-based financial services company founded by Deepak Kochhar’s brother acted as “Debtor Advisor” in restructuring the debt of seven companies, including the Videocon Group, which had borrowed from ICICI Bank.

Responding to questions mailed to his brother Rajiv Kochhar by The Indian Express, Avista Advisory said: “There is no conflict. The entire process of selection of “Debtor Advisor” was competitive…”

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April 5, 2018: CBI questions Chanda Kochhar’s brother-in-law

Rajiv Kochhar was stopped by the CBI at the Mumbai airport when he was about to board a flight to Singapore. He was brought to federal investigating agency’s headquarters in Mumbai. Sources said that Kochhar was questioned on his firm Avista Advisory.

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April 15, 2018: Centre steps in

The government sought a detailed report from the Registrar of Companies on the firms controlled by Deepak Kochhar and Venugopal Dhoot. The report was expected to examine the companies’ books and analyse the transactions carried out by them.

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May 4, 2018: I-T questions Chanda Kochhar’s husband

Deepak Kochhar, chanda kochhar, ICICI bank, Videocon scam, CBI, chanda kochhar, venugopal Dhoot, rajiv kochhar, India News, Indian Express Deepak Kochhar was issued summons in April.

A month after The Indian Express broke the story, Deepak Kochhar was summoned for the first time by any investigating agency probing the transactions carried out by his companies. The Income-Tax Department issued summons in April, asking Kochhar to appear before it within 10 days along with documents related to his company.

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May 25, 2018: Chanda Kochhar gets SEBI notice

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) issued notice to ICICI Bank and MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar for alleged non-compliance of the listing agreement in the Videocon case.

READ MORE

May 30, 2018: ICICI Board orders probe

After standing firmly behind Chanda Kochhar and saying no wrongdoing was committed by her, the board of ICICI Bank decided to institute an independent probe into a fresh complaint made by an anonymous whistleblower. The complainant accused Kochhar of “conflict of interest” and “quid pro quo” while dealing “with certain customers/ borrowers” of the bank.

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May 31, 2018: ICICI Bank denies asking Chanda Kochhar to go on leave

The private sector lender claimed it had not asked MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar to proceed on leave till the independent enquiry ordered by it is completed. Kochhar, it said, was on her annual leave which was planned in advance. The bank board also denied the appointment a search committee to find her successor.

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June 3, 2018: Govt refuses to interfere

The government, which has a nominee on the ICICI bank’s board, said it has no plans to interfere in the functioning of the bank.

“We will maintain complete non-interference in ICICI Bank affairs. We are just observing it from outside,” said the official in response to a query on suggestions that the government should wield its power to influence the bank’s affairs in the wake of these allegations.

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June 18, 2018: ICIC Bank send Chanda Kochhar on leave

Chanda Kochhar, the Managing Director and CEO of ICCI Bank, would go on leave till the independent probe against her was completed, the board announced.

MD and CEO of ICICI Prudential Life Sandeep Bakshi was appointed as Wholetime Director and Chief Operating Officer designate of the bank to oversee all businesses and corporate centre functions at the bank. He will report to the board.

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June 20, 2018: Kochhar’s Mumbai house under tax authorities scanner

More conflict of interest? Mumbai house of Kochhars has Videocon connection The CCI Chambers in South Mumbai: This is where the Kochhar family lives. (Source: Express photo by Santosh Parab)

After questioning Deepak Kochhar in May, Income Tax authorities is now probing the acquisition of a flat in Mumbai where the Kochhars currently reside. The house in Churchgate area was bought in the mid-1990s by a financial services firm set up by Deepak Kochhar and his brother Rajiv.

The firm was suspended from trading in 1996-97 and filed for liquidation due to financial stress. I-T sleuths found that Videocon International held 17.74 per cent in Kochhar’s company as on 2001. The flat was taken over by a firm with links to Videocon Group as part of the final settlement due to Videocon Industries from Kochhar’s company. After 2010, the same flat was re-acquired by Kochhar at a price lower than the market price.

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August 30, 2018

Kochchar was appointed as a Director on the board of ICICI Securities against the advice of proxy advisory firms asking shareholders to reject the proposal. The ICICI Bank voted in favour of her appointment. Kochhar is the Chairperson of ICICI Securities.

Also Read | Despite opposition from proxy firms, ICICI Securities reappoints Chanda Kochhar

September 7, 2018: SEBI to start personal hearings

Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is set to begin personal hearings as part of adjudication proceedings against ICICI Bank and Chanda Kochhar later this month for alleged violation of disclosure requirements under securities law in the case involving Videocon group and NuPower Renewables. Both ICICI Bank and Kochhar, in their separate replies to SEBI’s show-cause notices, said they were not aware of the dealings between Deepak Kochhar and the Videocon group.

READ MORE 

September 7, 2018: I-T probes sale of  ICICI Bank building in heart of Mumbai to Videocon Group

The Income Tax (I-T) department began probing the real estatte transaction between ICICI Bank and Venugopal Dhoot-promoted Videocon Group as part of its investigation into possible tax evasion in the ICICI Bank-Videocon loan case.

The sale of a 13-storey building, Radhika Apartments, which was earlier the staff quarters of ICICI Bank, in Prabhadevi in central Mumbai to Videocon Industries has come under the scanner following allegations of possible quid pro quo. It was allegedly sold to Dhoot’s firm at a much lower price than the existing market rate at that time.

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September 9, 2018: RBI says probe ongoing, not clean chit yet

Fiscal imbalances: RBI concerned over signs of worsening state finances “RBI is engaged with ICICI Bank in the matter and investigations by external agencies in the matter have not attained finality,” the central bank said in response to The Indian Express RTI application.

The Reserve Bank of India said it has not yet given a clean chit to ICICI Bank and Chanda Kochhar. Responding to a query from The Indian Express under the Right To Information (RTI) Act on the action taken against ICICI Bank and Chanda Kochhar, the central bank said: “RBI is engaged with ICICI Bank in the matter and investigations by external agencies in the matter have not attained finality. As such, the disclosure at this stage of information sought is likely to harm the competitive position of the bank and may also impede the process of investigation.”

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September 12, 2018: Shareholders raise questions on Chanda Kochhar

At the first ICICI Bank’s annual general meeting (AGM) to be held after charges were raised against Kochhar, shareholders who spoke to The Indian Express said many were “visibly upset” over Kochhar’s absence and sought clarity from the bank’s management over the allegations. The shareholders claimed they were instructed at the start of the meeting to refrain from asking any questions pertaining to Kochhar.

READ MORE 

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