The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday questioned Rajiv Kochhar, brother-in-law of Chanda Kochhar, after he was stopped at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSIA) in Mumbai while he was about to board a flight to Singapore.
Kochhar was brought to the agency’s headquarters in Mumbai and examined until late evening. Sources said that he is likely to be called on Friday to join the investigation.
Kochhar, along with his brother Deepak, are being probed by the central agency for the Rs 3,250-crore bank loan granted by ICICI to Videocon Group in 2012. The agency is probing the allegation of alleged ‘quid-pro-quo’ granted to Videocon by ICICI Bank whose CEO and MD is Chanda Kochhar.
A preliminary enquiry (PE) into the case is already registered by the Delhi unit of the CBI.
As first reported by The Indian Express on March 29, Videocon promoter Venugopal Dhoot formed a joint venture with Deepak Kochhar, loaned him Rs 64 crore before he transferred ownership of the lending entity to him for just Rs 9 lakh. This transfer happened six months after the Videocon Group got a loan from ICICI Bank. Almost 86 per cent of that loan (Rs 2,810 crore) remains unpaid and the Videocon account was declared an NPA in 2017.
Sources said that Rajiv Kochhar was about to board a Singapore Airlines morning flight but was stopped at the immigration counter and taken to the BKC office of CBI.
“We had specific information that Kochhar was flying out of the country. He was stopped at the immigration counter. A team got Kochhar to the agency’s Mumbai office where he was quizzed on the case and has been asked to cooperate in the investigation,” a senior official told The Indian Express.
“During the examination, Kochhar said he was en route to Singapore as his office is located there and he had some professional commitments to meet,” added the official.
Sources said that Kochhar was questioned on his firm Avista Advisory. As reported by The Indian Express on April 3, the company got the mandate to restructure foreign currency-denominated debt deals worth over $1.7 billion of seven companies over the last six years. All these companies were borrowers of ICICI Bank at the same time.
In at least one of these deals, ICICI Bank was the lead bank of the lenders.
According to disclosures made by Avista Advisory, the company acted as an advisor in restructuring debt of Jaiprakash Associates, Jaiprakash Power Ventures, GTL Infrastructure, Suzlon, JSL and Videocon Group.
Avista mentions two loan-restructuring deals involving the Videocon Group on its website worth $194 million and $97 million in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Responding to a questionnaire from The Indian Express, an ICICI Bank’s spokesperson had said that ICICI Bank has “never engaged” Avista Advisory Group for any services.The spokesperson added that the “brother of a husband does not fall within the definition of a ‘relative’ under the Companies Act, 1956 or 2013 or the Rules thereunder. Hence there is no requirement of any disclosure of such a relationship by any official of the Bank.”
When asked to explain its role in the Videocon case, Avista had told The Indian Express: “In the two Videocon deals…Avista was appointed by the Foreign Creditors (i.e. the Foreign Investors in the FCCBs issued by Videocon) to restructure and recover the investment made by them in the FCCBs. Accordingly, Avista acted as the “Creditor Advisor” and was not the advisor to the Videocon Group. We would also like to clarify that we represented the Foreign Investors and did not represent any Domestic Lenders/ICICI Bank.”