The Bombay High Court on Thursday granted bail to businessman Deepak Kochhar, husband of former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar, in the alleged ICICI Bank-Videocon money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
A single-judge bench of Justice Prakash D Naik granted the bail on furnishing a personal bond of Rs 3 lakh and one or two sureties of like amount. The court also ordered him not to leave India and to surrender his passport and cooperate with the probe.
The special PMLA court had rejected his bail plea in December 2020, after which he moved the HC.
Deepak, who controlled Nupower Renewables Pvt Ltd (NRPL), was arrested in September 2020 in connection with the money-laundering probe into loans disbursed by ICICI Bank to Videocon Group for alleged pecuniary considerations.
The ED is probing Deepak and Chanda Kochhar apart from Videocon Group promoter V N Dhoot for alleged money-laundering in the matter of the loans to Videocon Group by ICICI Bank. The loans later turned into Non-Performing Assets (NPA). Videocon Group had allegedly made investments into companies held by Deepak after disbursal of loans cleared by Chanda.
Deepak, represented by Senior Advocate Amit Desai and Dadhichi Mhaispurkar, argued that an Adjudicating Authority under the PMLA had on November 6, 2020 exonerated him, when it dismissed the ED’s plea to confirm the attachment of their assets. Stating that the trial is not likely to conclude in the near future and further detention of the applicant is not warranted, Desai sought Deepak’s release on bail.
After hearing submissions, the court noted that Chanda Kochhar and Venugopal Dhoot were released on bail by the special PMLA court and the entire loan amount was repaid to ICICI Bank.
The court also noted that prior to arrest after 18 months of filing the ECIR, Deepak had appeared before the ED on several occasions and his statements were recorded and documents tendered.
The HC observed, “No chargesheet is filed in the CBI case. Videocon Group has been taking loan from ICICI Bank for several years. The trial is not likely to commence and conclude immediately. The debatable issues are to be adjudicated during trial. The question of tampering evidence does not arise. The applicant is a permanent resident of Mumbai. The question of absconding does not arise. Considering the circumstances, further detention of the applicant is not necessary. Hence, a case for grant of bail is made out.”
The court asked Deepak to report to the ED once a month until further orders and asked him to inform his residential and contact details after being released, and in case of any change thereafter to the ED and the court, and disposed of the plea.