An Enforcement Directorate (ED) team from New Delhi Friday searched the South Mumbai residence of Chanda Kochhar, former chief executive and MD of ICICI Bank, and the offices of NuPower Renewables Pvt Ltd run by her husband Deepak Kochhar in connection with its probe into alleged irregularities in sanctioning of loans by ICICI Bank when Chanda Kochhar was at the helm.
The ED team also searched premises of Matix Group headed by Nishant Kanodia, Videocon promoted by Venugopal Dhoot, and the residence of Dhoot. Earlier this month, the agency registered an Enforcement Case Information Report under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act taking cognisance of a CBI complaint filed against the Kochhars, Dhoot and some of their firms.
ED is conducting searches under PMLA at the premises of Chanda Kochhar, former chairman ICICI Bank and Venugopal Dhoot of Videocon Group in Mumbai and Aurangabad respectively.
— ED (@dir_ed) March 1, 2019
During the searches, the ED team recorded statements of Dhoot and the Kochhars, sources told The Indian Express.
Watch video: The Videocon-ICICI deal explained
“The searches are still going on. Whatever documents or electronic evidence we gather will be analysed and verified over the next few weeks,” an ED official said. ICICI Bank and Chanda Kochhar have been under regulatory scrutiny after The Indian Express first reported on March 29, 2018, that Dhoot provided crores of rupees to a firm he had set up with Deepak Kochhar and two relatives six months after Videocon Group got Rs 3,250 crore as loan from ICICI Bank in 2012. On December 8, 2017, the CBI had registered a preliminary enquiry into sanctioning of the loan. The amount was part of the Rs 40,000-crore loan that Videocon 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.
Apart from this, NuPower got investments of Rs 325 crore from Mauritius-based Firstland Holdings, a firm owned by Kanodia, son-in-law of Essar Group co-founder Ravi Ruia. Investments from Ruia’s son-in-law’s firm into NuPower started in December 2010. Incidentally, the same month ICICI Bank was lead banker in a consortium of Indian banks that extended a $530-million loan to Essar Steel Minnesota LLC on December 29, 2010. This loan was later classified as NPA. In 2013, Firstland sold its stake in NuPower to DH Renewables, another Mauritius-based company.
In May 2018, the Income Tax department searched Matix Group and questioned Kanodia in connection with its probe into the investment made by Firstland in NuPower. It is also probing acquisition of Kochhar’s South Mumbai flat at CCI Chambers CHS Ltd in Churchgate area. 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 1,730 crore until 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 this loan of Rs 300 crore to Videocon International Electronics on September 7, 2008 as next day her husband’s firm NuPower received Rs 64 crore from Videocon Industries to acquire its first power plant. The CBI has also named Supreme Energy Pvt Ltd, Videocon International Electronics Ltd and unknown public servants as accused.