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Videocon Chairman Faces Case of Causing Wrongful Loss to Banks

In more troubles for Videocon Industries Ltd Chairman Venugopal Dhoot, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday, 23 June, registered a case against him and others for alleged irregularities in the acquisition of oil and gas assets in Africa's Mozambique and causing loss to the consortium of banks led by the State Bank of India.

The oil and gas asset was later taken over by the SBI.

The CBI said that a case has been registered against Dhoot, and unknown officials for alleged undue pecuniary gains to Videocon Industries Ltd.

The agency's action comes after it initiated a preliminary enquiry against unknown officials of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, ONGC Videsh, Oil India Ltd, Bharat Petro Resources Ltd and consortium of banks - SBI, IDBI and ICICI Bank - and Directors of Videocon Mozambique Rovuma, a subsidiary of Videocon Hydrocarbons Holding Ltd (VHHL) with an intent to cause undue pecuniary gain to Videocon.

The CBI, in its FIR, alleged that during investigation it was found that in 2008, VHHL, a subsidiary of Videocon Industries, acquired 10 per cent participating interest in oil and gas block in Rovuma area in Mozambique from Anadarko.

It said that VHHL was also having oil and gas asset in Indonesia and Brazil.

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ONGC Videsh Ltd and Oil India Ltd had acquired the Mozambique asset in January 2014 for $2,519 million. It was also found that in April 2012, the consortium led by SBI sanctioned the standby letter of credit facility of $2,773.6 million to VHHL for appraisal and development of their overseas oil and gas assets in Mozambique, Brazil and Indonesia and other funding requirement in relation to the said oil and gas asset and for re-financing the existing facilities.

The SBLC facility of $1,103 million was re-financed which includes outstanding of $400 million of Standard Chartered Bank, London.

The CBI said that the first charge of Videocon Industries' gas and oil asset was a part of Standard Chartered Bank's security. It also said that in February 2013, Videocon Industries informed the consortium that the loan of SCB has increased from $400 million to $530 million and requested the consortium to pay off the loan and to take over charge of the oil and gas asset.

“The SBI-led consortium, without any verification or inquiry, approved and paid the loan of $530 million to SCB, London,” the FIR said.

It further said this, the charge of Videocon's oil and gas asset was required to be taken over by Indian consortium led by the SBI, and the loan account of SCB was required to be closed by VHHL. However, the SBI consortium, in connivance with Videocon Industries, did not create the charge on the oil and gas assets with a dishonest intention to facilitate VHHL, who continued to avail the facility from SCB, London backed by the Mozambique oil and gas asset.

The CBI alleged that Videocon did not inform its lenders about the continued availing of the facility from the SCB, London and neither did the lenders ask for submitting the closure or no objection to Videocon Industries.

"The SBI-led consortium never took the charge of Mozambique asset and the charge for Indonesia and Brazil assets were only taken over in November 2013 from SCB."

A CBI source said that the agency initiated a preliminary inquiry into this transaction - involving the three banks, the Videocon Group and the Standard Chartered Bank in 2019, after it seized the incriminating documents from the premises of Dhoot in connection with the ICICI Bank case.

Besides the Mozambique oil and gas asset case, Dhoot is currently being probed by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate over alleged irregularities and money laundering in sanctioning of Rs 1,875 crore in loans by ICICI Bank.

The ED had filed a money laundering case last year against Dhoot on the basis of a complaint registered by the CBI, which had named Dhoot, his companies (Videocon International Electronics Ltd and Videocon Industries Ltd), as well as former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar.

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