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Deepak Kochhar, Videocon's Venugopal Dhoot face probe as CBI questions ICICI Bank officials

Deepak Kochhar, Videocon's Venugopal Dhoot face probe as CBI questions ICICI Bank officials

Days after the ICICI Bank reposed 'full faith' in its CEO & MD Chanda Kochhar in the Videocon loan case, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has begun a preliminary enquiry (PE) against Chanda Kochhar's husband Deepak Kochhar.

Deepak Kochhar, CEO, NuPower Renewables Deepak Kochhar, CEO, NuPower Renewables

Days after the ICICI Bank reposed 'full faith' in its CEO & MD Chanda Kochhar in the Videocon loan case, the Central Bureau of Investigation has begun a preliminary enquiry (PE) against Chanda Kochhar's husband Deepak Kochhar. The CBI has questioned a few bank officials to find if any quid-pro-quo was involved in the bank approving Rs 3,250 crore loan to the Videocon Group in 2012.

The development comes after ICICI Bank shareholder Arvind Gupta accused Kochhars of amassing 'wrongful personal gains' after private sector lender sanctioned loans worth Rs 3,250 crore to various private companies belonging to the Videocon Industries Limited.

A PE is a precursor before the agency lodges an FIR to probe criminal charges on the basis of evidence collected during the former exercise.

The agency officials told PTI that the statements of nodal officers of the ICICI, who were part of processing the loan of about Rs 3,250 crore, have been recorded as part of the PE registered six weeks back. CBI is also studying relevant documents of the transaction and if they come across any evidence that indicates wrongdoing, ICICI Bank MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar along with others could be summoned for detailed questioning.

Deepak Virendra Kochhar, who finds himself at the centre of this controversy, is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of NuPower Renewables which was set up in December 2008. NuPower Renewables was originally founded as a 50-50 JV between Videocon Group's Venugopal Dhoot family and Kochhar and Advani families (Chanda Kochhar's brother, Mahesh Advani). Around that time Chanda Kochhar was the CFO and Joint MD at ICICI Bank.

Deepak Kochhar was a financial services entrepreneur before he co-founded NuPower Renewables. He studied Masters in Finance from the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Bombay University. That's where he met Chanda Advani (Chanda Kochhar's original name). He is also an Alumnus of Harvard Business School - Graduate of the Advanced Management Program (AMP). Deepak Kochhar is also the managing trustee of Pinnacle Energy. 

Confirming the development, a CBI official told India Today, "This preliminary enquiry names Deepak Kochhar and has been registered to ascertain the allegations of nexus between Deepak Kochhar and Venugopal Dhoot." The enquiry also mentions some 'unknown bank officials' of ICICI Bank.

ICICI Bank had backed its CEO on Wednesday, saying that no individual employee, irrespective of his or her position, has the ability to influence credit decision at the bank.

In a statement to the stock exchanges on Wednesday, the ICICI Bank said that its board has concluded that there is no question or scope of any favouritism, nepotism or quid-pro-quo. The bank also urged the public to not be misled by the rumours which are being spread to malign the bank and its top management.

Gupta had alleged that despite Supreme Energy, which was owned by Videocon Group's Venugopal Dhoot, funding a sum Rs 64 crore in NuPower Renewables, its shareholding in NuPower got reduced to just 2.32 per cent, whereas with the investments of only Rs 1.89 crore Deepak Kochhar acquired 92.67 per cent stake in NuPower Renewable Private Limited.

Putting its weight behind the celebrated CEO Chanda Kochhar, the board of ICICI Bank further said that it was not the 'lead bank' for this consortium and sanctioned Rs 3,250 crore which was less than 10 per cent of the total consortium facility in April 2012.
 
While Kochhar was on the committee which sanctioned Rs 3,250 loan to Videocon in 2012, the bank said that Kochhar did not chair the committee which had many independent directors. It added that the Chairman of the Credit Committee till as late as June 2015 was always a non-executive director.

Defending Kochhar, ICICI Bank Chairman MK Sharma said the board does not see this as a conflict of interest in any manner since Videocon Group is not an investor in NuPower renewables, so there was no need to recuse herself from this committee.

The Credit Committee which authorized loans to debt-laden videocon Group included Chanda Kochhan, former MD & CEO KV Kamath. It also had two Independent non-executive Directors - Homi Khusrokhan and Madras Seshamani Ramachandran.

with PTI inputs