The Enforcement Directorate (ED) Monday (September 7, 2020) arrested Deepak Kochhar, husband of former ICICI Bank chief Chanda Kochhar, in connection with its money laundering probe into loans disbursed by ICICI Bank to Videocon group for alleged pecuniary considerations. An ED source said Deepak had been called for questioning in connection with some “fresh evidence of money trail” in the case. However, after he refused to come to Delhi citing the pandemic, he was questioned by a team of officers in Mumbai. “He did not cooperate with us and so we had to put him under arrest,” a senior ED official said. ED is probing Deepak and Chanda Kochhar apart from Videocon Group promoter VN Dhoot for alleged money laundering in the matter of loans disbursed to the Videocon Group by the ICICI Bank. The loans later turned Non-Performing Assets (NPA). Videocon Group had allegedly made investments into companies held by Deepak Kochhar after disbursal of loans cleared by Chanda.
According to ED, its probe has revealed that loans were refinanced and new loan aggregating to Rs 1,730 crore was sanctioned to M/s Videocon Industries Limited (VIL) and its group companies. These loans became NPA for ICICI Bank on June 30, 2017. In June this year, ED attached assets worth Rs 78.15 crore belonging to the Kochhar's. These included residential flats, land, cash, and plant and machinery located in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. “Investigation further revealed that amount of Rs. 64 crore, out of the loan of Rs. 300 crore sanctioned by a committee headed by Chanda Kochhar to M/s Videocon International Electronics Limited, was transferred to M/s Nupower Renewables Pvt. Ltd. (NRPL, earlier known as M/s NuPower Renewables Limited, a company of Deepak Kochhar, husband of Chanda Kochhar) by VIL on 08.09.2009, just one day after disbursement of loan by ICICI Bank. Further, the net revenue of Rs. 10.65 crores were generated by NRL from these tainted funds. Therefore, proceeds of crime amounting to Rs. 74.65 crores were transferred to/generated in NRPL,” an official statement by ED had said at the time of the attachment.
ED claimed that its probe had also revealed that Chanda Kochhar and her family acquired an apartment at Mumbai owned by one of the Videocon group Companies, by way of acquiring that Company through her family trust at a nominal price by creating book entries. ED had registered an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) in the matter based on a CBI FIR of January 22. In its FIR, 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”. ED tracks money trail: Videocon to Chanda Kochhar husband’s firm Former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar at IPO press conference at Taj Vivanta hotel. (Express photo by Pradip Das) It has also alleged that Chanda Kochhar, who took early retirement in October last year in the wake of allegations, had accepted “illegal gratification through her husband” Deepak Kochhar, in whose company Videocon group made investments after it was granted loans by the ICICI Bank. Apart from Kochhar’s and Dhoot, the FIR has named Deepak Kochhar’s company Nupower Renewables Ltd, Supreme Energy Pvt Ltd, Videocon International Electronics Ltd (VIEL), and Videocon Industries Ltd (VIL) apart from unknown public servants as accused. The agency has also put 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 in the case for their role in sanction of loans to Videocon. On March 31, 2018, it was first reported how in December 2008, Venugopal Dhoot of the Videocon Group set up a company with Deepak Kochhar and two of Chanda Kochhar’s relatives; then 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 happened six months after the Videocon Group got a loan of Rs 3,250 crore from ICICI Bank. Almost 86 percent of that loan (Rs 2,810 crore) remains unpaid and the Videocon account was declared an NPA in 2017. The CBI had begun investigations into the matter in December 2017 after it initiated a preliminary inquiry. The inquiry probes allegations that ICICI Bank 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 says. “The officials of ICICI Bank Ltd sanctioned credit facilities to these companies in violation of the 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 has said.