Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is undergoing treatment for an undisclosed ailment in the United States, on Friday wrote a blog post advising investigating agencies to concentrate on the bull’s eye and not indulge in “investigative adventurism”.
Jaitley’s statement came a day after the Central Bureau of Investigation raided Videocon offices in Mumbai and Aurangabad in connection with a Rs 3,250-crore loan case. While the finance minister’s post on Facebook mentioned the case, it did not identify any investigating agency by name.
The Central Bureau of Investigation had on Thursday filed a case against former ICICI Bank Chief Executive Officer Chanda Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar, Videocon Chief Executive Officer Venugopal Dhoot, and others. The same day, the agency had carried out raids in connection with alleged irregularities in a Rs 3,250-crore loan that ICICI Bank sanctioned to Videocon Group in 2012. The agency alleged that the accused sanctioned the loans to private companies in a criminal conspiracy with others in order to cheat ICICI Bank.
In his blog post, Jaitley wrote about the difference between “investigative adventurism and professional investigation”. The Finance Minister said, “Investigative adventurism involves casting the net too wide including people with no mens rea or even having a common intention to commit an offence, relying on presumptions and surmises with no legally admissible evidence.”
Such a method, Jaitley said, costs people their careers. “The targets are ruined because of harassment, loss of reputation and financial costs.”
“Sitting thousands of kilometers away, when I read the list of potential targets in the ICICI case, the thought that crossed my mind was again the same – Instead of focusing primarily on the target, is a journey to nowhere (or everywhere) being undertaken? If we include the entire who’s who of the Banking Industry – with or without evidence – what cause are we serving or actually hurting.”
He said “professional investigation” does not involve “malice or corruption”. “One of the reasons why our conviction rates are poor is that adventurism and megalomania overtakes our investigators and professionalism takes a back seat,” Jaitley said. “My advice to our investigators – Follow the advice of Arjun in the Mahabharat – Just concentrate on the bulls eye.”
The CBI searched the headquarters of Videocon Group in Mumbai and its offices in Aurangabad, as well as the offices of NuPower and Supreme Power. NuPower was founded by Deepak Kochhar.
Six months after Videocon Group received the loan from the bank in 2012, Dhoot allegedly provided crores of rupees to NuPower. In March, the CBI initiated a preliminary inquiry to determine whether the bank had violated any law by sanctioning the loan. That inquiry covered Dhoot and Deepak Kochhar. The agency has now converted the inquiry into a case.
Chanda Kochhar, meanwhile, had stepped down from her role at ICICI Bank in October, months after the allegations first came to light