ICICI Bank CEO and MD Chanda Kochhar as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) grilled her for over eight hours on Wednesday in connection with the Videocon Group bank loan case. The case is of multiple dubious loan approval that was granted to private firms while Chanda Kochhar was heading ICICI Bank in exchange for alleged benefits to her husband's firms in the form of investments.
Chanda Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar appeared before the ED's Headquarter in Delhi around 10.30 am where they were grilled till 8 pm. Deepak and Chanda Kochhar have been asked to appear before the agency on Tuesday as well.
The case is related to the alleged irregularities and corrupt practices in the sanction of Rs 1,875 crore loan disbursed by ICICI Bank to the Videocon Group during 2009 and 2011. The ED got clues about an illegal transaction running into crores of rupees routed to NuPower, a company run by Deepak Kochhar.
Sources have told India Today TV that the questioning was centred around "loans" given to Deepak Kochchar's NuPower Renewables by a clutch of big corporates including the Videocon group of companies, Mauritius based Matix, Sterling Biotech and Bhushan Steel and Power Limited.
Sterling Biotech Limited is owned by fugitives Nitin Sandesara and Chetan Sandesara. ED suspects that in exchange of granting loans to the tune of hundreds of crores to Sterling Biotech, her husband Deepak Kochhar's firm was given benefits. Chetan and Nitin Sandesara are believed to be in Albania.Apart from Sterling Biotech, ED also suspects that a bribe was paid in terms of investment to the company of Chanda Kochhar's husband in exchange for granting a loan to Bhushan Steels. Bhushan Steels is already under the Central Bureau of Investigation's probe.
Apart from ED's own investigation, a citizen of Singapore has also shared details of over a dozen dubious loans granted by ICICI Bank during Chanda Kochhar's tenure in exchange of an investment in her husband's firm. According to sources, the primary investigation by the probe agency found that details provided by the Singaporean citizen were legitimate.
Chanda Kochhar was earlier summoned on May 3 in connection with a Videocon money-laundering case but she requested to postpone it to May 13. Chanda was then asked by the ED to appear before it in New Delhi with the list of assets (movable and immovable) owned by her.
Chanda Kochhar's brother-in-law Rajeev Kochhar was grilled by ED in Delhi for over four days starting from 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 the ICICI Bank.
It has been alleged that Deepak Kochhar's firm 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 the ICICI Bank.
India Today TV has learnt that Chanda Kochhar, in her preliminary statement, tried shifting the 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 benefitted directly or indirectly from the loans.
"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.