ICICI Bank-Videocon loan case: Lookout notice issued against Chanda Kochhar, husband and Venugopal Dhoot
A lookout notice has been issued at all airports against ICICI Bank MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar and Videocon Group promoter Venugopal Dhoot by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) according to media reports. This is in connection with a case of Rs 3,250 crore loan to the Videocon Group in 2012.
A lookout circular (LOC) ensures that the person concerned cannot leave an airport without informing the authorities first.
“After CBI filed its preliminary inquiry last year, lookout circulars against Deepak Kochhar and Venugopal Dhoot were issued for all airports, which have been revived now,” said a report in The Economic Times quoting a CBI official who did not want to be identified.
On 25 January, 2019, the CBI had booked Kochhar on charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and abuse of official position for “dishonestly sanctioning loans to the Videocon Group”.
The agency carried out searches at multiple locations, including the offices of Videocon group in Mumbai and Aurangabad, offices of Nupower Renewables Pvt Limited which is operated by Deepak Kochhar, and Supreme Energy after registering a case.
“It was alleged that the accused sanctioned certain loans to private companies in a criminal conspiracy with others to cheat ICICI bank,” the CBI spokesperson said.
Managing Director of Videocon group Venugopal Dhoot, his companies Videocon International Electronics Ltd (VIEL) and Videocon Industries Limited (VIL), a company, Supreme Energy, founded by him and a company controlled by Deepak Kochhar, Nupower Renewables have also been made accused in the CBI FIR, they said.
The agency has levelled Indian Penal Code sections related to criminal conspiracy, cheating and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act on all the accused.
It is alleged that Dhoot had invested in Deepak Kochhar’s company Nupower through his firm Supreme Energy a quid pro quo to loans cleared by the ICICI Bank after Chanda Kochhar took over as the CEO of the bank on 1 May, 2009.
The ownership of Nupower and Supreme Energy changed hands through a complex web of shared transactions between Deepak Kochhar and Dhoot, it alleged.
The CBI probe into the matter began nearly 13 months ago in the form of a preliminary enquiry, which it registered on a complaint that Dhoot had allegedly paid Rs 64 crore to Deepak Kochhar in the form of investment in his company Nupower in return for loans worth Rs 3,250 crore cleared by Chanda Kochhar.
A preliminary enquiry is the first step before registering a regular case during which the agency pinpoints formal allegations which could be included in the FIR.
During the preliminary enquiry, the CBI found six loans worth Rs 1,875 crore were sanctioned to the Videocon group and companies associated with it between June, 2009 and October, 2011 in alleged violation of laid-down policies of the ICICI bank, which have now become part of the probe.
“Existing outstanding in the accounts of these private group companies were adjusted in Rupee Term Loan of Rs 1,730 crore sanctioned by the ICICI Bank under refinance of domestic debt under consortium arrangement on April 26, 2012,” CBI spokesperson Nitin Wakankar said.
The loans were declared non-performing assets in 2012 causing a loss of Rs 1,730 crore to the bank, it alleged.
The CBI wants to investigate the role of some top names in the Indian banking industry in connection with clearing these loans, the FIR stated.
Present CEO of ICICI bank Sandeep Bakshi, Chairman of Goldman Sachs Sonjoy Chatterjee, CEO Standard Chartered Bank Zarin Daruwala, Managing Director & CEO Tata Capital Rajiv Sabharwal, Chairman, New Development Bank K V Kamath and Senior Advisor Tata Capital Homi Khusrokhan were part of committees which cleared the loans and need to be investigated, it said.
“The role of these senior officers of the sanctioning committee may also be investigated,” it said.
In two cases, Chanda Kochhar was one of the members of the sanctioning committee—Rs 300 crore to Videocon International Electronics VIEL on 26 August, 2009 and Rs 750 crore to VIL on 31 October, 2011, it said.
The CBI has alleged Rs 300 crore loan was disbursed on 7 September, 2009 and the next day Dhoot transferred Rs 64 crore to Nupower Renewables Ltd, through Supreme Energy founded by him.
“This was the first major capital received by NRL to acquire first power plant. Thus Chanda Kochhar got illegal gratification through her husband from VIL and V N Dhoot for sanctioning a loan of Rs 300 crore to VIEL,” it alleged.
The amount was transferred through a “circuitous route” using the firm Supreme Energy Limited. The ownership changed hands to a trust run by Deepak Kochhar, the CBI alleged.
In addition to loans to VIL and VIEL, four other loans were issued to Millenium Appliances, Sky Appliances, Techno Electronics and Applicomp India to repay the unsecured loan availed by these companies from VIL, the FIR alleged.
The loans were to repay the unsecured loan availed by these companies from VIL and a loan was also sanctioned to VIL for refinancing the existing loans of the company, which was against the credit policy of the bank during the relevant period.
The FIR has alleged that these loans have turned NPA resulting in wrongful loss to the ICICI Bank and wrongful gain to the borrowers and accused persons.
“The account of Mumbai-based private company (Videocon) and its group companies were declared NPA with effect from 30 June, 2017,” Wakankar said.
–With PTI inputs