The Bombay High Court on Friday granted interim bail to Videocon Group founder Venugopal Dhoot in an alleged loan fraud case involving the ICICI Bank, reported Live Law.
The court noted that the reason mentioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation for his arrest was “quite casual and without any substance”, according to PTI.
The CBI had arrested Dhoot on December 26, three days after the agency took former ICICI Bank Chief Executive Officer Chanda Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar into custody in the case. The High Court had granted bail to the Kochhars on January 9.
The central agency had booked Dhoot and the Kocchars under the Prevention of Corruption Act in 2019. It had alleged that the ICICI Bank, under the leadership of Chanda Kochhar, sanctioned a Rs 3,250-crore loan to companies owned by the Videocon Group that are in direct violation of the Banking Regulation Act, the Reserve Bank of India rules and the credit policies of the private sector bank.
Dhoot, in his bail plea, sought quashing of a special Central Bureau of Investigation court’s remand orders, reported Live Law. He alleged that his arrest was illegal.
On Friday, a division bench of Justices Revati Mohite Dere and PK Chavan noted that there had been a “calculated move by the CBI to concoct non-attendance and non-cooperation” in the probe against Dhoot.
The court noted that this was even after Dhoot wrote emails to the CBI in response to the summons issued.
“The diligence and bonafide of the petitioner can be demonstrated from the emails,” the bench said. “From the language of the email, it appears that the petitioner [Dhoot] had already handed over all the documents and co-operated with the investigating agency by appearing in its office on several occasions despite his deteriorating health.”
Advocate Sandeep Ladda, appearing for Dhoot, told the Bombay High Court that the CBI had arrested him for changing his statements and not cooperating with the investigation. Ladda also said that the Enforcement Directorate, investigating the money laundering aspect of the case, did not find it necessary to arrest Dhoot.
However, advocate Raja Thakare, appearing for the Central Bureau of Investigation, said that their inquiry cannot be compared with the Enforcement Directorate’s as their case involves charges such as Section 120B (conspiracy) and offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, reported Live Law.
According to the CBI, Dhoot had allegedly invested Rs 64 crore in a company named Nupower Renewables through another firm named Supreme Energy Private Limited after the ICICI Bank sanctioned the loan to the Videocon Group in 2012. NuPower was controlled by Deepak Kochhar.
He later transferred Supreme Energy Private Limited to the Pinnacle Energy Trust, which was also controlled by Deepak Kochhar, according to The Hindu. The central agency said that ICICI Bank’s loans to the Videocon Group became non-performing assets, resulting in wrongful gains to the borrowers and the accused persons.