Business News

Serious Fraud Investigation Office may look into ICICI Bank loan to Videocon Group

The Mumbai office of the SFIO has asked the New Delhi headquarters if it can investigate the Rs 3,250-crore loan as it concerns ‘public money’.

The Serious Fraud Investigation Office in Mumbai has asked the New Delhi headquarters if it can investigate the Rs 3,250-crore loan that ICICI Bank sanctioned to the Videocon Group in 2012, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday.

The Mumbai Serious Fraud Investigation Office, or SFIO, said it wanted to look into the loan as the “quantum involved is several thousand crores”, and it concerns “public money”, the daily reported.

The Mumbai SFIO’s move comes just days after the Central Bureau of Investigation announced that it had started a preliminary enquiry to determine if ICICI Bank had violated any law by sanctioning the loan to the Videocon Group.

In its report on Tuesday, the newspaper quoted unidentified officials as saying that the Mumbai SFIO received a complaint about ICICI Bank, the Videocon Group and their promoters in February 2018. The complaint reportedly alleged “corporate malpractice, surreptitious transactions and round tripping of money”.

The Mumbai office then wrote to the head office on February 27, saying the “case has got issues pertaining to laundering of money, evasion of taxes and banking transactions,” the report said.

The allegations

Videocon’s Chief Executive Officer Venugopal Dhoot allegedly provided crores of rupees to NuPower Renewables – a company founded by Deepak Kochchar – six months after the Videocon Group got the loan from ICICI Bank. Deepak Kochchar is the husband of ICICI Bank Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Chanda Kochhar.

The loan was reportedly part of the Rs 40,000-crore loan that the conglomerate secured from a consortium of 20 banks led by the State Bank of India.

Reports have claimed that Dhoot had transferred ownership of the company to Deepak Kochchar six months after ICICI Bank granted the Videocon Group a Rs 3,250-crore loan, and that nearly 86% of this loan – Rs 2,810 crore – is still unpaid. The Videocon account was declared a non-performing asset in 2017.

ICICI Bank has since backed Chanda Kochha and clarified that “there is no question of any quid pro quo/nepotism/conflict of interest”.

In another report on Tuesday, The Indian Express alleged potential conflict-of-interest links with a Singapore-based financial services company founded by Deepak Kochhar’s brother. The report said Avista Advisory, founded by Rajiv Kochhar had the mandate to restructure foreign currency-denominated debt deals worth over $1.7 billion of seven companies over the past six years, and that all these companies were borrowers of ICICI Bank at the same time.Similar allegations were made on Monday by senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy.

In a Twitter post, Swamy raised questions about Avista’s business links with ICICI Bank and demanded a CBI inquiry.

Rajeev Kochhar denied the reports calling them “baseless and malicious”. He said his firm does not have any business arrangements with ICICI. “

In an interview on Monday, Rajiv Kochhar said that he or his firm does not have any business arrangements with the Chanda Kochhar-run bank. “The only rule that we follow is not to have any syndication with Indian banks at all,” he told Mint. “There is nothing in it. There is zero record or link between us. We are a professionally managed firm having our offices in Indonesia and Dubai, and we have dealings all over the world. India is only one part of the story.”

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