ICICI Bank Managing Director and CEO Chanda Kochhar is presently on leave facing allegations of quid pro quo, non-adherence to the code of conduct and conflict of interest.
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 was recently 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?
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.
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.
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.
April 2, 2018: Another potential conflict-of-interest link
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…”
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.
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.
May 4, 2018: I-T questions Chanda Kochhar’s husband
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
June 20, 2018: Kochhar’s Mumbai house under tax authorities scanner
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.