The Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) is awaiting the Ministry of Corporate Affairs’ (MCA) nod to probe ICICI Bank’s Rs 3250 crore loan to the Videocon group in 2012. The agency wants to take up the investigation as “the quantum involved is several thousand crores” and it concerns “public money”, a source told Moneycontrol.
The SFIO had sent a request on the issue to the ministry last week.
The Mumbai office of the SFIO had received a letter from a whistleblower last month. The letter, sources said, talked of alleged “corporate malpractice, surreptitious transactions and round tripping of money”.
The SFIO made a preliminary report on the case and submitted it to the MCA. A source close to the development told Moneycontrol, “The ministry may take a call on the investigation within this week.”
Another source told Moneycontrol, “In the preliminary report, there are many transactions which need to be investigated.”
The CBI and the investigation wing of the Income Tax department had commenced “suo motu” inquiries into transactions and money flows in the ICICI Bank-Videocon case, reports stated on Sunday. Officials in the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) said the focus of the scrutiny was to be the “money trail” among key players and bankers.
On March 29, The Indian Express reported that in December 2008, Videocon CEO Venugopal Dhoot allegedly gave Rs 64 crore as loan to NuPower Renewables – initially a joint venture between the Venugopal Dhoot family and the Deepak Kochchar family– six months after the Videocon Group got the loan from ICICI Bank. Deepak Kochchar is the husband of ICICI Bank Managing Director and CEO Chanda Kochhar.
In all, the Videocon group had borrowed Rs 40,000 crore in 2012 from a consortium of 20 banks led by the State Bank of India.
Reports say the Dhoot family eventually exited NuPower, selling its stake for a paltry sum to Deepak Kochchar. Of the Rs 3250 crore, which the Videocon group borrowed from ICICI Bank, Rs 2810 crore is still unpaid. The Videocon account was declared a non-performing asset (NPA) in 2017.
Coming to Chanda Kochhar’s defence, ICICI Bank chairman M K Sharma had said, “The Board doesn’t believe it represents a conflict as Videocon Group is not an investor in NuPower Renewables. Hence, there was no need for Chanda Kochhar to recuse herself from the committee.”
Earlier, the bank had issued a press release stating that “there is no question of any quid pro quo/nepotism/conflict of interest as is being alleged in various rumours”. It said the board “reposes full faith” in Kochhar, and that “malicious and unfounded rumours” were being spread to “malign the bank”.
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