CBI to initiate probe against ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar’s husband

The Central Bureau of Investigations has initiated a preliminary inquiry (PE) against Deepak Kochhar, the husband of ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar for his alleged involvement in the quid pro quo loan provided to Videocon Ltd.

According to reports, a CBI official, under the condition of anonymity, stated that Deepak Kochhar and Venugopal Dhoot, promoter of Videocon group and unknown others have been named as suspects in the PE. Chanda Kochhar is not a suspect in the current PE.

The issue first came to light when it was reported that In December 2008, Venugopal Dhoot of Videocon Ltd set up a joint venture (JV) with Deepak Kochhar, Chanda Kochhar’s husband. In an investigative report by the Indian Express, it was brought to light that Venugopal Dhoot, after setting up a JV with Deepak Kochhar, issued the company a 64 crore loan through one of his fully owned entities and then proceeded to transfer the ownership of the JV to a trust headed by Deepak Kochhar. The transfer of ownership was done at just Rs 9 lakhs.

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The report further revealed that the ownership transfer happened just six months after the Videocon group was issued a 3,250 crore loan from ICICI Bank Ltd. Almost 86% (2,810 crores) of that loan remains unpaid and it was declared an NPA in 2017.

The ICICI Bank in a press release has denied any quid pro quo or conflict of interest in case of the loan Videocon Group and the bank holds faith in its MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar and the alleged irregularities are only an attempt to malign the image of the bank.

In another press statement, the Chairman of the ICICI Bank MK Sharma revealed that Chanda Kochhar was, in fact, part of the panel that approved the 3,250 crore loan to Videocon but there was no conflict of interest involved.

In December 2008, Deepak Kochhar and Venugopal Dhoot had set up NuPower Renewables Pvt Ltd. Dhoot (through family members) held 50% while Deepak and his relatives held 50% of it. In2009, Dhoot resigned as director of NuPower and transferred his shares to Kochhar for 2.5 lakhs. In March 2010, NuPower received a 64 Crores loan from Supreme Energies (owned 99.9% by Dhoot). Supreme Energy then, through a series of transfer of shares became the owner of 94.99% owner NuPower while the rest of the shares remained with Deepak Kochhar. Dhoot then transferred all his holdings in Supreme Energy to his associate MC Punglia who eventually transferred them to Pinnacle Energy, a trust where Kochhar was the Managing Trustee. The cost of the total transaction was just 9 lakhs.

The transactions are now under scanner as it raises several questions of conflict of interest on the part of ICICI Bank and the Videocon conglomerate. The other shareholders in NuPower were Deepak Kochhar’s father and Chanda Kochhar’s brother’s wife.

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