One of the new members of the Banks Board Bureau (BBB) appointed Thursday by the government was on the three-member advisory board of Singapore-based Avista Advisory, founded by Rajiv Kochhar, till earlier this week. Avista Advisory is currently under the CBI scanner in connection with ICICI Bank’s Rs 3,250 crore loan to the Videocon Group in 2012.
P Pradeep Kumar, a former managing director of State Bank of India who has been appointed BBB member, told The Indian Express: “I resigned from my post at Avista Advisory earlier this week due to the ongoing controversy around Avista. Last year in July, I began working with Avista as an advisor and was with them for nine months. My role was to advise on the firm’s strategy.”
The CBI has begun a preliminary enquiry (PE) into the alleged nexus between Deepak Kochhar, husband of ICICI Bank CEO and MD Chanda Kochhar, and Videocon Group chairman Venugopal Dhoot, a borrower of the bank.
As first reported on March 29 by The Indian Express, 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) remained unpaid and the Videocon account was declared an NPA in 2017.
On April 5, Rajiv Kochhar, brother of Deepak Kochhar, was stopped at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSIA) in Mumbai while he was about to board a flight to Singapore and brought to the CBI office for questioning in the Videocon case. Since then, he has been questioned several times by the CBI — it is probing allegations of quid pro quo granted to Videocon by ICICI Bank.
Avista Advisory 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.
The BBB was set up to improve governance in banks and assist the government in selecting top managerial talent in public sector banks. On Thursday, the government named former bureaucrat Bhanu Pratap Sharma as the new BBB chairman. Apart from P Pradeep Kumar, Vedika Bhandarkar, a former head of India investment banking at Credit Suisse, and Pradip Shah, who founded ratings agency CRISIL, were named as new BBB members.