Troubles are fast piling up for former ICICI Bank CEO and MD Chanda Kochhar, who is under the scanner in connection with quid pro quo loans to the Videocon Group. On Wednesday, the Enforcement Directorate had grilled her as well as her husband for over eight hours, and the latest buzz is that the scope of the investigation has widened.
The loan fraud case was initially centred around six high-value loans sanctioned by ICICI Bank to various Videocon companies between June 2009 and October 2011, starting soon after Kochhar took over as the CEO for which she and her husband had allegedly received “illegal gratification”. The ED has now expanded its probe into a total of 24 loans that, it believes, were given to the conglomerate “illegally and criminally” by the bank under her stewardship till 2018, the Hindustan Times reported.
According to an internal investigation report of the agency, loans worth Rs 7,862.20 crore – fresh loans as well as renewals of loans, guarantees – were sanctioned by the private bank to Videocon Group companies.
The ED as well as CBI allege that Kochhar was a part of the sanctioning committee, which had approved a loan of Rs 300 crores to Videocon International Electronics Ltd (VIEL) in September 2009. And the very next day after the amount was disbursed, Videocon group MD Venugopal Dhoot had allegedly transferred Rs 64 crore from VIL to NuPower Renewables Limited, the company owned by her husband, Deepak Kochhar. Other big loans currently being investigated by ED reportedly include two to VIL, Rs 536 crore on September 15, 2016, and Rs 881.4 crore on October 31, 2011, as well as a Rs 180 crore loan to Videocon Hydrocarbons Holdings Ltd on September 30, 2014.
According to the ED, the Kochhar family members even have “joint holding in certain companies with the persons of Videocon group viz in NRPL [NuPower Renewables Pvt Ltd] and SEPL [Supreme Energy Pvt Ltd]”. It claims that “changes in the shareholding patterns in the specified companies into and amongst such persons under a design and plan” point to a nexus. Furthermore, the agency stated that the suspected transfer of funds and changes in the companies have taken place both at the “corporate level” and at the “individual level”.
The internal investigation report suspects that given the long association between the Videocon Group and the Kochhars – not to mention the fact that both ICICI Bank and the conglomerate boast operations in India and abroad – there is a “possibility of generation and infusion of proceeds of crimes further in the case”.
For instance, the ED has listed Kochhar’s flat at CCI Chambers in Churchgate, Mumbai, where she lives, as an “illegal gain”. It was alleged that this flat was owned by Quality Appliances Pvt Ltd, a Videocon entity now named Quality Techno Advisors, from 2009 to 2016. Meanwhile, sources told India Today TV that ED’s questioning on Wednesday was also centred around “loans” given to NuPower Renewables by other corporates such as Mauritius based Matix, Sterling Biotech and Bhushan Steel and Power Limited.
It has been alleged that NuPower received an investment of Rs 325 crore from Matix Fertilisers in 2010 soon after they were granted loans by the ICICI Bank. Similarly, the ED suspects that in exchange of granting loans to the tune of hundreds of crores to Sterling Biotech, owned by fugitives Nitin Sandesara and Chetan Sandesara, and Bhushan Steels, Deepak Kochhar’s firm gained benefits in terms of investment.