The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has booked former CEO and MD of ICICI Bank Chanda Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar and MD of Videocon Group Venugopal Dhoot, among others, for alleged corruption and criminal conspiracy in connection with the Rs 3,250 crore ICICI Bank-Videocon loan case.
In its FIR registered on January 22, the CBI has alleged that Chanda Kochhar had “dishonestly” granted loans to the tune of hundreds of crores of rupees to the Videocon Group “in contravention of rules and policy …by abusing her official position”. The agency has also alleged that Chanda Kochhar, who had taken early retirement in October last year in the wake of the allegations, had accepted “illegal gratification through her husband” Deepak Kochhar, in whose company the Videocon Group made investments after it was granted loans by ICICI Bank.
Express Explained: What the CBI is trying to unravel in the Videocon-Kochhar deal
Earlier in the day, the agency had conducted raids at four locations in Mumbai and Aurangabad in Maharashtra in connection with the case. The locations included the office premises of Videocon, Nupower Renewables and SEPL. Apart from Kochhars and Dhoot, the FIR also named Deepak Kochhar’s company Nupower Renewables Ltd, Supreme Energy Pvt Ltd, Videocon International Electronics Ltd (VIEL) and Videocon Industries Ltd (VIL) and other unknown public servants as accused.
The agency has also brought under scanner top bankers such as current ICICI CEO Sandeep Bakshi, K Ramkumar, Sanjoy Chatterjee, NS Kannan, Zarin Daruwala, Rajiv Sabharwal, KV Kamath and Homi Khusrokhan for their role in sanction of loans to Videocon.
On March 31, 2018, The Indian Express had first reported how in December 2008, Venugopal Dhoot of the Videocon Group had set up a company with Deepak Kochhar and two of Chanda Kochhar’s relatives and later gave a Rs 64-crore loan to this company through a fully owned entity before he transferred the latter’s ownership to a trust headed by Deepak Kochhar for just Rs 9 lakh.
In what raised questions of propriety and conflict of interest, the transfer of the company to Deepak Kochchar took place six months after the Videocon Group was given a loan of Rs 3,250 crore from ICICI Bank. Almost 86 per cent of that loan (Rs 2,810 crore) remains unpaid and the Videocon account was declared a non-performing asset in 2017.
The CBI began investigating the case in December 2017 after it initiated a preliminary enquiry. The enquiry probed allegations that ICICI Bank had sanctioned credit facilities of about Rs 3,250 crore to Trend Electronics Ltd, Century Appliances Ltd, Kail Ltd, Value Industries Ltd and Evan Fraser and Co. India Ltd, all companies belonging to the Videocon group, the FIR said.
“The officials of ICICI Bank Ltd sanctioned credit facilities to these companies in violation of Banking Regulation Act, RBI guidelines and credit policy of the bank. It was also alleged that as part of quid pro quo, Sh. VN Dhoot made an investment of Rs 64 crore in M/s Nupower Renewables through Supreme Energy Pvt Ltd (SEPL) and also transferred SEPL to Pinnacle Energy Trust managed by Deepak Kochhar through a circuitous route between 2010 to 2012,” the FIR said.
The agency has alleged that under Chanda Kochhar, loans of over Rs 1,500 crore were sanctioned to various companies of Videocon group, in contravention of rules or policies of the bank. Pointing to Chanda Kochhar’s role, the FIR said, she took over as MD of the bank on May 1, 2009, following which all the suspect loans to the Videocon Group were sanctioned. The CBI alleged that in two loans of Rs 300 crore to VIEL and Rs 750 crore to VIL, she was a member of the sanctioning committee.
According to the FIR, a preliminary enquiry revealed that between June 2009 to October 2011, ICICI Bank had sanctioned six high-value loans to various Videocon group companies. On August 26, 2009, a loan of Rs 300 crore was sanctioned to VIEL in “contravention of rules and policy by the sanctioning committee”.
The FIR also alleged that the committee had Chanda Kochhar as one of the members, “who in criminal conspiracy to cheat ICICI Bank an in pursuance of criminal conspiracy on 26.08.2009, dishonestly by abusing her official position sanctioned this loan in favour of VIEL”.
The loan, the FIR read, was disbursed to VIEL on September 7, 2009. On the following day, Dhoot’s company SEPL made an investment of Rs 64 crore to Deepak Kochhar-owned Nupower Renewables Ltd (NRL). “This was the first major capital received by M/s NRL to acquire its first power plant. Thus, Ms Chanda Kochhar got illegal gratification/ undue benefits through her husband from VIL/VN Dhoot for sanctioning RTL of Rs 300 crore to M/s VIEL,” the FIR said.
NRL was incorporated on December 24, 2008, with Deepak Kochhar, VN Dhoot and Saurabh Dhoot as its directors. On January 15, 2009, the Dhoots resigned from the directorship of the company. “However, before resigning…Dhoot allotted 19,97,500 warrants to Deepak Kochhar at the rate of Rs 10 per warrant, on an initial payment of Rs 1 per warrant,” the FIR said.
On June 5, 2009, NRL shares (24996) held by Dhoot and Deepak Kochhar group through Pacific Capital Services (24,999) were transferred to SEPL which became a 95% shareholder of NRL, the FIR alleged.
SEPL itself was incorporated on July 3, 2008, with Dhoot (9,990 shares) and his associate Vasant Kakade (10 shares) as directors. On January 15, 2009, Dhoot exited SEPL by selling his shares Kochhar’s Pinnacle Energy Trust.
According to the FIR, during the period, various loans to the tune of Rs 1,575 crore were sanctioned by ICICI Bank to several companies of the Videocon Group. The FIR says loans sanctioned to Sky Appliances Ltd, Techno Electronics and Applicomb India Ltd were for the purpose of enabling them to repay unsecured loans taken from VIL. VIL itself was granted loans to refinance loans taken by it earlier.
The CBI has alleged these loans were sanctioned in violation of the credit policy of the bank during the period. The committees that sanctioned these loans comprised of Sandeep Bakshi, Ka Ramkumar, Sanjoy Chatterjee, NS Kannan, Zarin Daruwala, Rajiv Sabharwal, KV Kamath and Homi Khusrokhan as members.
“These loans have turned NPA resulting in wrongful loss to ICICI Bank and wrongful gain to borrowers and the accused persons. The role of these senior officers of the sanctioning committee may also be investigated,” the FIR said.
The CBI alleged that ICICI Bank had also released the security available in the form of FDR (fixed deposit receipt) of Rs 50 crore in the accounts of Sky Appliances and Techno Electronics without any justification.
On April 26, 2012, the existing outstanding of the six accounts were adjusted in RTL of Rs 1,730 crore sanctioned under refinance of domestic debt, the FIR alleged. On June 30, 2017, the VIL account was declared NPA.