CBI questions Rajiv Kochhar, Venugopal Dhoot aide in Videocon loan case
Rajiv Kochhar was asked about the help he extended to Videocon in connection with the loan from ICICI Bank, which was part of a Rs 400-billion credit given by a consortium of 20 banks to the group of Venugopal Dhoot.Updated: Apr 07, 2018, 23:45 IST
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) detectives on Saturday questioned the brother-in-law of ICICI Bank managing director and chief executive officer Chanda Kochhar and a man suspected to be a close aide to Videocon Group promoter Venugopal Dhoot, stepping up a preliminary enquiry (PE) into potential criminality in a Rs 3,250 crore loan sanctioned by the bank to the company.
Rajiv Kochhar, brother of Chanda Kochhar’s husband Deepak Kochhar, was questioned for a third day, and Mahesh Chandra Punglia, “closely associated with Videocon Group, as alleged, was examined today in the PE related to ICICI-Videocon loan case,” said a CBI spokesperson.
Punglia is a former employee of Videocon and then used to offer consultancy services to the same group, according to the CBI. He is also a director of NuPower Renewables Pvt. Ltd, a company owned by Deepak Kochhar.
An email to NuPower seeking comments and a text message to Dhoot remained unanswered till the time of going to press.
Rajiv Kochhar was detained on Thursday at the Mumbai airport when he was about to leave the country.
CBI officers then took him to their Mumbai office to seek clarifications on his role, if any, in the ICICI Bank-Videocon Group transactions. He was questioned on Friday too.
Rajiv Kochhar is being examined on suspicion that he may have played a role in the restructuring of the loan taken by Videocon Group, according to CBI officials familiar with the matter.
Deepak Kochhar and Dhoot have been named as suspects in the PE registered by the CBI. Both of them have been barred from leaving the country as well, with immigration authorities opening so-called Look-out-Circulars (LoCs) against them on the request of the CBI.
A PE is a precursor to a possible first information report (FIR) to probe criminal charges on the basis of evidence collected during the exercise.
CBI has registered the PE on the basis of information gathered through sources and concerns a suspected quid-pro-quo in the loan extended by ICICI Bank to Videocon Group in 2012, and Dhoot’s personal investment (and subsequent transfer of ownership) in NuPower Renewables. According to the CBI’s PE, a company called Supreme Energy, once owned by Dhoot, loaned Rs 64 crore to NuPower in 2010. Dhoot later transferred his shareholding in Supreme Energy to Punglia, who sold the stake to a trust where Deepak Kochhar was managing trustee.
CBI is probing whether these circuitous transactions had anything to do with the loan of ?3,250 crore sanctioned by ICICI Bank as part of a consortium of over 20 banks and financial institutions.
CBI’s questioning of Punglia centered around the circumstances in which Supreme Energy changed hands and the loan of Rs 64 crore it advanced to Nupower Renewables, officials familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.
ICICI Bank’s board has ruled out any conflict of interest issues for Kochhar and reposed faith in her.
The bank’s position is that it was a minority partner in the consortium led by State Bank of India (SBI) that advanced the loan to Videocon Group.
A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of parliament called for an FIR to be lodged against the Kochhars.
It will be in the fitness of things to register an FIR against Deepak Kochhar and Chanda Kochhar and subject them to custodial interrogation, the MP, Udit Raj, wrote to CBI director Alok Kumar Verma.