Deepak Kochhar tweaked firm’s books, says Enforcement Directorate
Soon after ICICI Bank Limited launched an internal investigation against its then managing director Chanda Kochhar in August 2016, her husband Deepak Kochhar tweaked his company’s books to show that Rs 64 crore received from Videocon Group was a genuine business transaction and that he intended to return the money, according to a charge sheet filed by Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The charge sheet was filed on November 3 this year, but these details are just emerging.
According to ED, on August 18, 2016, when the internal inquiry was initiated by ICICI Bank into allegations against Chanda Kochhar for improper grant of loans extended to companies affiliated with Videocon Industries Ltd (VIL) and its promoter Venugopal Dhoot in return for quid pro quo investments in Deepak Kochhar’s company NuPower Renewables Pvt Ltd (NRPL), “accounting entries in the books of Supreme Energy Pvt Ltd (SEPL) were made to give an appearance of genuineness to the transaction”.
SEPL is also controlled by Deepak Kochhar and was used for transfer of the money, believed by ED to be a kickback, in 2009 from Videocon to NRPL, according to ED.
A provision of Rs 32 lakh against redemption premium was created in the balance sheet of FY2016-17, to project the proceeds of crime as genuine transaction and “to project that SEPL intended to return funds”.
“…Had it been a genuine transaction between SEPL and VIL, the provisioning would have been done in 2009 itself. But the provisioning was created (that too of an amount of Rs 32 lakh only) first time in FY2016-17 by SEPL,” according to the ED charge sheet, which has been reviewed by HT.
ED says that when ICICI Bank forwarded a press release to the Bombay Stock Exchange on March 28, 2018 ,putting its weight behind Chanda Kochhar, “being assured that ICICI has closed the matter and no enquiry or action is pending, the provisioning (of Rs 32 lakh) was reversed by SEPL in FY2017-18.”
According to ED, there was never any intention (on the part of either NRPL or SEPL) to repay Rs 64 crore to Videocon but this change in the account books was part of a conspiracy of reviving a broken link for returning the funds.
The post-enquiry irregularities didn’t stop there, according to the agency.
The charge sheet says that Real Cleantech Private Ltd (RCPL), a company of the Videocon Group, through which Rs 64 crore came to NRPL, was allowed a slow death i.e. it was struck off by Registrar of Companies (RoC) in 2018 due to non-filing of records.
However, a day after Justice (retd) B N Srikrishna interviewed Deepak Kochhar on January 2, 2019 for the enquiry entrusted to him by ICICI Bank, Dhoot filed an application in RoC Mumbai for revival of RCPL and subsequently Deepak Kochhar shared the application document with justice Srikrishna. ED said the revival of a company struck off by RoC can only be sought from the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).
Only after a formal investigation was initiated both by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in January 2019 did Dhoot apply to the NCLT for revival of RCPL in February 2019. The company was ultimately revived in September that year.
Kochhar’s lawyer Vijay Aggarwal said: “Only the label is different in the complaint filed by the prosecution before the special judge PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act). It is verbatim same as that filed before the adjudicating authority, wherein vide detailed 800 pages order, all their allegations have been held to be baseless. So, this old wine in new bottle is not fit for drinking.”
Dhoot could not be reached for comment.
In March 2018, the board of ICICI Bank gave a clean chit to Chanda Kochhar and said there was no question of favouritism, nepotism or conflict of interest on her part in granting loans to Videocon or any other company. In October the same year, she resigned from the bank, with which it had been associated for 34 years, Months later, the bank sacked her, deciding to treat her resignation as termination, after the Srikrishna panel found that she violated the bank’s policies and other rules and regulations.