The Central Bureau of Investigation on Thursday questioned Rajiv Kochhar, the brother-in-law of ICICI Chief Executive Officer Chanda Kochhar, as part of their inquiry into the lender’s deal with the Videocon group, PTI reported. The investigating agency took him in for questioning after immigration officials stopped him at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport.
Unidentified officials said Rajiv Kochhar was scheduled to fly to Singapore. “A team got Kochhar to the agency’s Mumbai office where he was quizzed on the case and has been asked to cooperate in the investigation,” a senior official told The Indian Express.
The CBI has initiated a preliminary inquiry to determine whether ICICI Bank broke the law by sanctioning the Rs 3,250-crore loan to the Videocon Group in 2012. Videocon Group CEO Venugopal Dhoot, Chanda Kochhar’s husband Deepak Kochhar and unknown others were named as suspects in the CBI’s preliminary inquiry, which can be converted into an FIR when the agency has sufficient material to show that a cognisable offence has been committed.
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. It was 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.
CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal refuted reports that there was a lookout circular issued against Rajiv Kochhar, the Hindustan Times reported.
Unidentified officials said Rajiv Kochhar was questioned about his firm – Avista Advisory Group’s – role in the deal. A report by The Indian Express had claimed that Avista Advisory Group had restructured foreign currency-denominated debt deals worth over $1.7 billion of seven firms in the last six years. The seven companies were ICICI Bank borrowers during that period.
An ICICI Bank’s spokesperson told The Indian Express that the bank has “never engaged” Avista Advisory Group for any services. “The brother of a husband does not fall within the definition of a ‘relative’ under the Companies Act, 1956 or 2013 or the Rules thereunder,” said the bank’s spokesperson. “Hence there is no requirement of any disclosure of such a relationship by any official of the bank.”
The board of ICICI Bank had backed Chanda Kochhar, saying there was no quid pro quo, nepotism, or conflict of interest on her part in the loans granted to the Videocon Group.