The Central Bureau of Investigation’s probe into the ICICI-Videocon loan controversy could go beyond just former boss Chanda Kochhar and include well-known former and current officials.
According to the agency’s FIR, the role that ICICI’s current CEO Sandeep Bakshi and top former officials like non-executive chairman K.V. Kamath and executive director Sonjoy Chatterjee played on committees that sanctioned loans to the Videocon Group could also be investigated.
On Thursday afternoon, nearly a year after it registered a preliminary enquiry (PE) into the matter, the investigative agency filed a proper case, naming Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar and Videocon Group boss Venugopal Dhoot.
The crux of the matter, as laid out first by a whistleblower-investor’s complaint in 2016, is whether ICICI Bank sanctioned loans worth Rs 3,250 crore to the Videocon Group in 2012 because Dhoot had business dealings with Deepak Kochhar.
In particular, it was alleged that loans were given to Videocon because Dhoot made an investment of Rs 64 crore in Nupower Renewables, a company run by Deepak Kochhar, through another firm called Supreme Energy Pvt Ltd. Supreme Energy, which was owned by Dhoot, was then transferred to a trust managed by Deepak Kochhar in a circuitous manner between 2010 and 2013.
The CBI’s FIR, however, for the first time lays out a semi-detailed series of events and how they may stack up.
Two events, one day apart
The agency notes that between June 2009 and October 2011, ICICI sanctioned 6 high-value loans to various Videocon Group companies.
The first loan of Rs 300 crore was sanctioned to Videocon International Electronics Ltd (VIEL), which was in “contravention of the rules and policy by the sanctioning committee.” This loan was given to VIEL on September 7, 2009.
On the very next day (September 8, 2009), the CBI points out, Dhoot transferred Rs 64 crore to Nupower Renewables from Videocon Industries through his company Supreme Energy.
“This was the first major capital received by M/s. NRL [Nupower Renewables] to acquire its first power plant. Thus, Ms. Chanda Kochhar got illegal gratification/undue benefit through her husband from M/s. VIL / Sh. V N Dhoot for sanctioning RTL of Rs.300 crores to M/s. VIEL,” the FIR, which reproduces the outcome of its preliminary enquiry, notes.
The investigative agency also lists out other loans given between 2009 and 2011: Millennium Appliances India Ltd (Rs 175 crore, June 30, 2009), Sky Appliances Ltd (Rs 240 crore, November 17, 2010), Applicomp India Ltd (Rs 300 crore, May 30, 2011) and Videocon Industries (Rs 750 crore, October 31, 2011).
“Loans sanctioned to M/s. SAL, M/s. TEL and M/s. AIL were for the purpose of enabling them to repay the unsecured loan availed by these companies from M/s. VIL. Further, a loan was also sanctioned to M/s. VIL for refinancing the existing loans of the company. These loans were sanctioned in violation of Credit Policy of the bank during the relevant period,” the CBI notes.
It then goes onto note that all these loans were sanctioned by a number of committees having senior officials of ICICI Bank as members.
“These loans amounting to Rs. 1575 crs were sanctioned on various dates by various committees having senior officials of ICICI Bank as members namely Sh. Sandeep Bakshi, Sh. K. Ramkumar, Sh. Sonjoy Chatterjee, Sh. N S Kannan, Ms. Zarin Daruwala, Sh. Rajiv Sabharwal, Sh. K v Kamath and Sh. Homi Khusrokhan,” the FIR says.
“These loans have turned NPA resulting in wrongful loss to ICICI Bank and wrongful gain to the borrowers and accused persons. The role of these senior officers of the sanctioning committee may also be investigated. ICICI Bank had also released the security available in the form of FDR of Rs.50 crs in the accounts of M/s. Sky Appliances Ltd., M/s. Techno Electronics Ltd. without any justification.”
As noted above, Sandeep Bakshi is the current CEO of ICICI Bank, while K.V. Kamath is the former non-executive chairman. Sonjoy Chatterjee used to sit on the bank’s board but now is the boss of Goldman Sachs India.
The CBI notes that Chanda Kochhar became ICICI’s head honcho in May 2009, and that the credit limits given to Videocon group companies “were sanctioned after she took over the charge of the bank.”
“These loans were sanctioned by the different Sanctioning Committees. Ms. Chanda Kochhar was one of the committee members which had sanctioned RTL of Rs.300 Crs to VIEL and Rs.750 Crs to M/s. VIL,” THe FIR notes.
“That on 26.04.2012, the existing outstanding of the six accounts were adjusted in RTL of Rs. 1730 Crs sanctioned under refinance of domestic debt. The account of M/s. VIL and its group companies were declared NPA w.e.f. 30.06.2017.”
Consequently, the CBI notes, the outcome of the preliminary enquiry reveals commission of cognizable offences under “Section 120-B r/w 420 IPC read with Section 7 and Section 13(2) r/w 13(1)(d) of PC Act, 1988 on the part of M/s. Videocon International Electronics Ltd. (VIEL), M/s. Videocon Industries Ltd. (VIL), their respective the then directors, Sh. V N Dhoot, MD of Videocon group, Ms. Chanda Kochhar, the then MD & CEO of ICICI Bank, Sh. Deepak Kochhar, MD of M/s. Nupower Renewables Ltd. (NRL), M/s. Nupower Renewables Ltd. (NRL), M/s. Supreme Energy Pvt. Ltd. (SEPL), other unknown public servants and private persons”.