CBI To Probe Dhoot-Kochhar-ICICI Web Of Transactions, Know All About It
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered preliminary enquiry (PE) into the case of alleged impropriety and possible conflict of interest through a quid pro quo between ICICI Bank MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar’s husband Deepak Kochhar, Videocon group chairman Venugopal Dhoot and the ICICI Bank.
CBI registers preliminary enquiry
A PE has been launched to probe the alleged nexus. Agency sources have reported that Chanda Kochhar has not been named in the PE that also mentions the alleged involvement of “unknown bank officials”, apart from Deepak Kochhar and Dhoot. CBI is investigating the accusations against Dhoot and Deepak Kochhar.
PE is the first step in the investigations by CBI and if no proper evidence is found, the case can be shut with due approval from Director, CBI. A case is registered by CBI only after it finds evidence to register FIR.
Reportedly, the agency soon will call Dhoot, Deepak Kochhar and bank officials for examination. These officials are likely to be from the consortium of banks that lent loans to Videocon Group.
The agency has collected relevant documents related to the said loan given to Videocon Group.
Dhoot has said that his investment in Supreme Energy, the company alleged to have invested in Deepak Kochhar’s promoted NPRL, was only in thousands of rupees and temporary.
The allegations had first come to light in 2016 when a shareholder Arvind Gupta wrote to the Prime Minister, CBI’s Director and Enforcement Directorate.
The report by The Indian Express says that Videocon chairman Dhoot started a joint company, NuPower Renewables Pvt Ltd (NRPL), with Deepak Kochhar and two of the latter’s relatives in Decembr, 2008. Dhoot had 50% share in NRPL where as the other 50% shares were owned by Kochhar, and Pacific Capital, a company owned by his father and Chanda Kochhar’s brother’s wife.
After just a month, in January 2009, Dhoot resigned from the position of director of NRPL. He also went on to transfer his 24,999 shares in the company to Kochhar for Rs 2.5 lakh.
Additionally, Supreme Energy Private Limited, a company in which Dhoot reportedly has 99.9% stake, lent a loan of Rs 64 crore to NRPL, in March 2010 and by the end of the month, Supreme Energy went on to become 94.99 % shareholder in NRPL. This step was preceded by a series of transfer of shares first between Dhoot and Kochhar and later between Pacific Capital and Supreme Energy.
In November 2010, as per reports, Dhoot went on to transfer his entire shares in Supreme Energy to Mahesh Chandra Punglia, his associate.
Punglia transferred his holding in Supreme Energy to Pinnacle Energy, where Deepak Kochhar was the managing trustee. The total value of the transfer of shares amounted to Rs 9 lakh.
Supreme Energy then gave a loan of Rs 64 crore to NPRL and then got absorbed into Pinnacle Energy within three years.
As of March 2017, Registrar of Companies records say that Deepak Kochhar held an about 43.4% in NPRL both as direct holding and through Supreme Energy and Pinnacle Energy.
ICICI and Dhoot deny claims
When The Indian Express reached out to ICICI bank, it did not answer the questions on transaction, however, about the issue of loan to Videocon, they said, “In 2012, a consortium of over 20 banks and FIs where State Bank of India was the facility agent (Lead) sanctioned facilities to the Videocon group (Videocon Industries Ltd. and 12 of its subsidiaries/ associates as co-obligors) for a debt consolidation programme and for the group’s oil and gas capital expenditure programme aggregating approximately Rs. 40,000 crore…ICICI Bank sanctioned its share of facilities aggregating approximately Rs 3250 crore which was less than 10% of the total consortium facility in April 2012. The current outstanding against this loan is Rs 2810 crore and total current exposure to Videocon group is Rs 2849 crore…The Videocon group account has been classified as an NPA during 2017.”
Venugopal Dhoot also denied the allegations of conflict of interest. He said, “On January 15, 2009, I resigned as a director of NuPower Renewables and Supreme Energy Private Ltd and sold at par the 24,996 shares of NuPower and 9,990 shares of Supreme Energy held by me, thereby relinquishing my right, title and interests in the said shares, giving up control and management of Supreme Energy and completely disassociating myself from both the Companies all on the same day, as I got too busy with my other larger business like oil & gas, telecommunication, etc.”
The NPRL denied connections with ICICI Bank’s loan lent to companies owned by Dhoot.
The whole issue is reportedly being investigated now.
The report claims that Rs 2,810 crore out of the Rs 3,250 crore loan has not yet been paid and the account of Videocon was declared non performing asset (NPA) in 2017.