Mumbai court sends Venugopal Dhoot to CBI custody till Dec 28, extends Chanda and Deepak Kochhar's remand
The probe agency told the court it wanted to confront Dhoot with the Kochhars
A special court on Monday sent Videocon group's founder Venugopal Dhoot in CBI custody till December 28 and extended the remand of former ICICI Bank CEO and MD Chanda Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar till the same date in the loan fraud case.
The probe agency told the court it wanted to confront Dhoot with the Kochhars.
The court noted the investigation is in the initial stage in respect of a very serious offence and in such cases, sufficient time is required to be given to the investigating agency to interrogate the accused.
It said the arrest of the new accused in this case indicates progress in the investigation.
The Kochhars were arrested by the probe agency on Friday night after a brief questioning session and had been remanded to the custody of CBI till December 26. Dhoot,71, was arrested on Monday morning.
Later in the day, the probe agency produced all three accused before special CBI Judge AS Sayyad.
The CBI, represented by special public prosecutor A Limosin, sought three-day custody of Dhoot and an extension of remand of the Kochhars for as many days to confront all the accused. .
While praying for Dhoot's remand, the special public prosecutor (SPP) told the court the Videocon founder is the "ultimate beneficiary" of the loan (granted by ICICI) and the amount of Rs 1,033 crore was yet to be paid. .
Dhoot has changed his version on several occasions during the investigation, the SPP said. The CBI told the court the Videocon founder "has not disclosed full and true facts of the case".
The probe agency further told the court Dhoot is required to be confronted with the Kochhar couple for a proper probe and to take the case to its logical end.
Dhoot's lawyer SS Ladda opposed the remand saying his client has always cooperated with the investigation.
Ladda submitted before the court the arrest itself was illegal and that Dhoot should be released on bail.
Responding to CBI notices, Dhoot visited the probe agency's office on December 19 and 20, and was asked to appear again on Sunday, Ladda told the court.
However, Dhoot had communicated to the probe agency he won't be able to turn up on December 25 due to his health condition but would do so the following day, Ladda said.
When he went to the CBI office, Dhoot was subjected to an RT-PCR (for COVID) and placed under arrest, the lawyer told the court.
Opposing Dhoot's custody, Ladda said the court must consider his client's health condition as he has 90 per cent (heart) blockage.
Ladda further said the entire material (evidence, documents) was already with the CBI and no wrongful loss had been caused to the bank and, hence, Dhoot's custody was not required.
Advocate Vikram Chaudhary, appearing for Deepak Kochhar, questioned the CBI's move of arresting him now in the case which was under investigation since 2019. .
"It took them five years to arrest him, when he had three of four judicial orders, including one from the Supreme Court in his favour," he said.
"Why didn't you arrest him when he was in custody for six months... It is the abuse of power. Why arrest now…. when his son's wedding is in 15 days? It's most unfortunate, most inhuman," the lawyer told the court.
Earlier in 2020, Deepak Kochhar was arrested by Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case and was granted bail by the Bombay High Court after spending six months in jail.
The ED had appealed against the HC order in the Supreme Court, However, the apex court upheld the HC order.
On the CBI's claim of non-cooperation, Chaudhary said it has been mentioned in the remand without elaborating on the same. He said it was a "vague and most unspecific” remand application.
Chanda Kochhar's lawyer Amit Desai termed the arrest as "embarrassing" for her client.
The Kochhars were called twice in 2022, once in July and once in December, when they were arrested. On these days no investigation happened.
There was some "preconceived notion" and they were arrested without any interrogation, Desai said.
On CBI's move to invoke Indian Penal Code section 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) against Chanda Kochhar, Desai submitted it is for an "extraneous purpose" and hampers his client's right.
The court after hearing all the parties sent the three accused to the custody of CBI till December 28.
The court noted that considering the nature and gravity of the offence and subsequent development, the arrest of the new accused in this case indicates that there is progress in the investigation.
"It appears the investigation is at the initial stage in respect of a very serious offence. In such cases, this court is of the considered opinion that at least sufficient time is required to be given to the investigating agency to interrogate the accused in respect of the offence," the court said.
The court said the grounds raised by the probe agency in the remand plea "appear to be reasonable and justifiable". .
The CBI in 2019 named the Kochhars and Dhoot, along with companies Nupower Renewables (NRL) managed by Deepak Kochhar, Supreme Energy Private Ltd (SEPL), Videocon International Electronics Ltd (VIEL) and Videocon Industries, as accused in the FIR registered under IPC sections related to criminal conspiracy and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The probe agency has alleged a sanctioning committee headed by Chanda Kochhar, in 2009, sanctioned a term loan of Rs 300 crore to VIEL in contravention of the rules and policies of the bank by abusing her official position as a public servant. .
The very next day after the loan was disbursed, Dhoot transferred Rs 64 crore to NRL from VIEL through SEPL, the CBI said.