Videocon case: EC suspects Chanda Kochhar received benefits from firms in exchange for loans
Probe agency Enforcement Directorate (ED) is probing former MD and CEO of ICICI Bank Chanda Kochhar's role in loan sanctions to private firms apart from Videocon and Matix Fertilisers while she was chief of bank.
Top sources told India Today TV that the probe agency suspects that Chanda Kochhar, in exchange of granting loans, benefitted through her husband's firm.
According to sources, one such loan was sanctioned by Chanda Kochhar to Sterling Biotech Limited, a company owned by fugitives Nitin Sandesara and Chetan Sandesara.
ED suspects that in exchange of granting loan to the tune of hundreds of crores to Sterling Biotech, her husband Deepak Kochhar's firm was benefitted.
Owners of Sterling Biotech - Chetan Sandesara and Nitin Sandesara - are absconding from India. The duo are believed to be in Albania.
Apart from Sterling Biotech, ED also suspects that bribe was paid in terms of investment to the company of Chanda Kochhar's husband in exchange of granting loan to Bhushan Steels.
Bhushan Steels is already under probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Apart from ED's own investigation, a citizen of Singapore has also shared details of over dozen dubious loans granted by ICICI Bank during Chanda Kochhar's tenure in exchange of investment in her husband's firm.
According to sources, primary investigation by the probe agency found that details provided by the Singaporean citizen are legitimate.
Chanda Kochhar has been summoned on May 3 in connection with a Videocon money-laundering case. Sources have told India Today TV that she has been asked to appear before the ED in New Delhi with the list of assets (movable and immovable) owned by her.
Her husband, Deepak Kochhar, who is at the centre of the controversy, has also been summoned along with her brother-in-law Rajeev Kochhar on April 30.
Sources say that Chanda Kochhar has been asked to give a list of disclosures she made to Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) and other regulators when she was heading ICICI Bank.
The ED, according to sources, has come across evidence which suggests that Chanda Kochhar was the sole beneficiary and no other employee of the company benefitted from the loans granted to certain individuals and firms.
It has been alleged that Deepak Kochhar's firm -- NuPower Renewables -- received an investment of Rs 64 crore from Videocon Group and Rs 325 crore from Matix Fertilisers in 2010 soon after they were granted loans by ICICI Bank.
India Today has learnt that Chanda Kochhar in her preliminary statement tried shifting blame on other bank officials and maintained that the decision to grant loans to both the firms was taken by the loan-sanctioning committee.
However, sources within the probe agency told India Today TV that ED's investigation revealed that none of the other ICICI Bank employees apart from Chanda Kochhar benefitted directly or indirectly from the loans.
Sources also said that Chanda Kochhar was unable to explain her case when confronted with documentary evidence by the interrogators.
The ED claims that they have evidence against Chanda Kochhar, who has been questioned several times by the probe agency. The ED is also looking at her role in the two cases involving her husband Deepak Kochhar.
According to sources, Deepak Kochhar's NuPower Renewables received Rs 64 crore through a cluster of shell companies from Videocon. The same year it received Rs 325 crore from Mauritius-based Firstland Holdings, a firm owned by Nishant Kanodia.
"It is important to note that, both these companies which invested in Deepak Kochhar's company were sanctioned loans by ICICI Bank at a time when his wife Chanda Kochhar was at a top position in the bank. It does raise suspicion and we are investigating the same," a source told India Today TV.
Trouble continues for Chanda Kochhar and the others involved as the agency claims to have the money trail of transactions between the former ICICI Bank MD and the two companies that were sanctioned the loan.
The ED is also probing a loan of $530 million in 2010 to Essar Steel Minnesota LLC during her tenure. Similar to the Videocon case, ICICI Bank, as the lead bank of a consortium of banks, passed a loan of $520 million to Essar that turned into non-performing assets in 2013.
Earlier, Chanda Kochhar was grilled by the ED along with Nishant Kanodia of Matix Fertilisers. Apart from Deepak Kochhar, promoter of Videocon Industries Venugopal Dhoot was also questioned by the ED.
During Chanda Kochhar's tenure as CEO, six high-value loans were issued to various Videocon companies. It is alleged that Venugopal Dhoot, in turn, invested in Deepak Kochhar's NuPower Renewables through his firm Supreme Energy.