Surrounded by the allegations of the conflict of interest between NuPower CEO Deepak Kochhar and ICICI Bank, Videocon Group Chairman Venugopal Dhoot is now playing the Marathi card to nudge the controversy.
To get a perspective on a series of allegation against Videocon, Indiatoday.In tried to speak to Venugopal Dhoot over telephone. However, Dhoot declined to comment, saying he would only speak to the Marathi media.
While clarifying his stand on the allegations levelled against him to some Marathi channels, visibly-agitated Dhoot said: "Marathi 'manoos' is unnecessary being targeted. We belong from a Varkari community of Maharashtra, who are devotees of Lord Vitthal. We would never enter into illegal act or any financial irregularities." Dhoot said he knows Deepak Kochhar through his brother Rajiv Kochhar, who is also the son-in-law of former Maharashtra Chief Secretary Sharad Upasani.
He declined to give interviews to Hindi and English news channels and would "opt only Marathi channels".
Interestingly, Avista Advisory, an investment banking firm managed by Rajiv Kochhar, was the 'credit adviser' to Videocon Group of Companies for the restructuring of an FCCB (Foreign Currency Convertible Bond). However, the queries sent to Videocon Group over another 'conflict of interest' issue with Rajiv Kochhar also went unanswered.
Talking to local media, Dhoot reiterated that he came out of the business alliance with Deepak Kochhar and his firm NuPower Technologies, which is into renewable energy business, soon after Videocon Group got an oil and gas rigging contract.
Dhoot also said he had nothing to do with Supreme Energy, and "it is not a part of Videocon Group". Dhoot's Supreme Energy had allegedly funded Rs 64 crore to NuPower. As per the allegations, Supreme Energy took over a majority of the shares of NuPower, which Dhoot transferred to his associate Mahesh Chandra Punglia.
Dhoot admitted that even if Supreme Energy is not part of Videocon Group, he might be having some shares of the company. Punglia in turn transferred his entire stake in Supreme Energy to Deepak Kochhar's Pinnacle Energy for only Rs 900,000 just six months after the Videocon Group got a loan of Rs 3,250 crore from ICICI Bank.
Dhoot said no bank gives a loan "free of interest". He claims it was given due to the past track record of Videocon Group. The company was given a loan facility in crores by the consortium of banks.
It is noteworthy that Rajkumar Dhoot, the brother of Venugopal Dhoot, is a three-time Rajya Sabha Shiv Sena MP. After the exposure of the alleged conflict of interest between Dhoot-Kochhars-ICICI Bank, Shiv Sena is yet to make any statement on the controversy.