NH Exclusive: ICICI-Videocon loan controversy—did PM ignore whistle blower, twice?

Prime Minister Narendra pictured along with CEOs in Davos, Switzerland on January 23, 2018; ICICI Bank MD and CEO Chanda Kochchar is highlighted in red; Nirav Modi, an accused in the PNB fraud case can also be seen (highlighted in blue)

A whistle blower accuses the PMO of ignoring the conflict of interest in the ICICI-Videocon loan controversy he had flagged in March, 2016, and about which he had sent a follow-up to PMO in Feb, 2017

The Prime Minister had ignored his letter of March, 2016 in which he had flagged the conflict of interest involved in the loan granted to Videocon by the ICICI Bank and the loan that Videocon’s Venugopal Dhoot gave to a company jointly owned by the ICICI Bank MD’s husband and him, alleges Arvind Gupta, who claims to be a shareholder of both Videocon and the ICICI Bank.

The Indian Express earlier on Thursday questioned a series of transactions and sweetheart deals between Venugopal Dhoot’s companies and the husband of Chanda Kochhar, MD and CEO of ICICI Bank.

  • A Videocon company extended a loan of ₹64 crore to the energy company jointly held by Dhoot and Deepak Kochhar and their relatives and associates.
  • The ownership of the entity that extended the loan was then transferred to Deepak Kochhar for a consideration of ₹9 lakh.
  • The transaction happened six months after ICICI bank extended to Videocon a loan of ₹3,250 crore in 2012-13.
  • In 2017 Videocon still had to repay ₹2,810 crore to ICICI Bank
  • But this amount was declared by the Bank as NPA in 2017.

The ICICI Bank once again responded on Thursday by pointing out that it was just one of several banks which had agreed to lend Videocon ₹40,000 crore and that its exposure was limited to less than 10% of that amount.

The bank also maintained that there was no conflict of interest and that the bank’s MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar had made all necessary declarations to the regulators.

Gupta, the whistle blower, told National Herald that he had got his letter both hand delivered to the PMO and also sent it by email. In his letter he had drawn the attention of the PMO to a report by financial research firm Credit Suisse, which had ranked Videocon as among the top four Indian companies stressed by debt.

The letter pointed out that despite large debt burden of over ₹40,000 crore, Videocon had donated ₹10 crore to the BJP in 2014 although it had managed to donate only ₹5 lakh to the party the previous year.

Gupta told NH that he had sent a follow-up letter to the PMO on February 18, 2017. The follow-up letter is produced here:

Venugopal Dhoot’s brother Rajkumar Dhoot is a third-term Rajya Sabha MP representing the Shiv Sena, an NDA ally.

On Thursday ICICI Bank Chairman MK Sharma said reports alleging nepotism by the lender's MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar were unfounded and malicious in nature. He asserted that no individual bank employee had the ability to influence any credit given by it. He defended the MD’s decision not to recuse from the meeting of the committee that sanctioned the loan, saying that she did not ‘chair’ the meeting.

National Herald sent questions to the PMO asking what action if any had been taken by the PMO on Gupta’s March 2016 letter, and what reply if any had been given by the PMO to the letter. No reply had been received at the time of publication. This report will be updated as and when we receive a reply.

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