The ongoing Enforcement Directorate (ED) investigation into transactions between Videocon Group and Deepak Kochhar’s NuPower Renewables Pvt Ltd, has unearthed a money trail that allegedly shows diversion of loan funds by Videocon International Electronics Ltd (VIEL), in a transaction involving transfer of Rs 64 crore to NuPower Renewables, sources told The Indian Express.
This was done a day after ICICI Bank disbursed a Rs 280-crore rupee term loan to Venugopal Dhoot-promoted VIEL on September 7, 2009. Deepak Kochhar is the husband of former ICICI Bank managing director and chief executive officer Chanda Kochhar.
Chanda Kochhar was on the sanctioning committee that cleared the Rs 280-crore loan.
Transactions of VIEL, sources said, show that the firm transferred Rs 64 crore of the disbursed loan received by it on September 7, 2009, to two different bank accounts of VIEL. A day later, on September 8, 2009, VIEL transferred the money to NuPower Renewables through Supreme Energy Pvt Ltd.
However, sources said, in its books, VIEL has allegedly shown a transaction of Rs 64 crore from it to a firm related to the Videocon Group; from there the money was once again transferred to another related company that subsequently gave the money to Supreme Energy.
Supreme Energy then invested Rs 64 crore in NuPower Renewables.
The ED has also found that between 2009 and 2016, the residence of Deepak Kochhar and Chanda Kochhar, 45 CCI Chambers CHS Ltd, opposite the Cricket Club of India at Churchgate in south Mumbai, was owned by Quality Appliances Pvt Ltd (now Quality Techno Advisors Pvt Ltd) a firm related to the Videocon Group until March 2016.
The agency alleged that this flat, that has been the Kochhar family’s residence since 1998, was transferred to Deepak Kochhar in 2016 through a trust at a nominal price.
As reported by The Indian Express in June 2018, an Income Tax department investigation first highlighted the web of transactions used for the acquisition of the flat at CCI Chambers by Deepak Kochhar.
An enquiry report submitted by Justice B N Srikrishna to the ICICI Bank in January also pointed to the quid pro quo between the Kochhars and Dhoot based on the real estate deal pertaining to 45 CCI Chambers.
Emails sent to Venugopal Dhoot and NuPower Renewables did not elicit any response. Deepak Kochhar’s phone remained unreachable.
ICICI Bank and Chanda Kochhar have been under regulatory scrutiny after The Indian Express reported that Videocon Group provided Rs 64 crore to NuPower Renewables, a firm Dhoot had set up with Deepak Kochhar and two relatives six months after the Videocon Group got Rs 3,250 crore as loan from ICICI Bank in 2012.
The amount was part of the Rs 40,000-crore loan that Videocon Group secured from a consortium of 20 banks led by SBI. Almost 86 per cent of the Rs 3,250 crore loan (Rs 2,810 crore) remained unpaid. The Videocon account was declared an NPA in 2017.
On January 22, the CBI registered a FIR against Chanda Kochhar, Deepak Kochhar, Dhoot and a few firms including Nupower Renewables and Videocon Industries for allegedly cheating ICICI Bank of Rs 1730 crore till March 2012.
It also searched the offices of NuPower and Videocon in Mumbai.
The CBI has alleged “the accused (Chanda Kochhar) sanctioned certain loans to private companies in a criminal conspiracy with other accused to cheat ICICI Bank”. It said Chanda Kochhar “dishonestly” abused her official position to disburse a loan to VIEL on September 7, 2008 as the very next day her husband’s firm Nupower Renewables received Rs 64 crore from Videocon Industries to acquire its first power plant.
Since March 1, the ED has questioned Dhoot, Deepak Kochhar and Chanda Kochhar multiple times under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in connection with the alleged sanctioning of loans to a few customers causing a loss to ICICI bank. The agency has also searched over ten places, including the residence of the Kochhars and Dhoot as apart of its probe.