ICICI case: What Venugopal Dhoot told ED about Deepak Kochhar?
The probe launched by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) into the ICICI money laundering case has found tit-for-tat deals between Kochhars and Venugopal Dhoot, the promoter of Videocon Industries. Dhoot, one of the co-accused in the case, is believed to have told ED that Deepak Kochhar threatened to ruin his image, prompting him to get involved in illegal deals with him. Here's more.
The ICICI money laundering case came to light when a whistleblower claimed that Dhoot gave kickbacks to Deepak's Nupower Renewables Private Limited (NRPL). Deepak is the husband of former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar. Dhoot did so to return the favor for a loan given to Videocon by ICICI. After the case got light, Chanda was sacked from her position last year.
According to ED's investigation report, some of the loans involved were as high as Rs. 2,870 crore, sanctioned on April 26, 2012, to Videocon Industries Limited, reports HT. Most recently, the bank loaned Rs. 166.4 crore to VIL on June 28, 2017. Other loans include Rs. 881.4 crore to VIL in 2011, Rs. 180 crore to Videocon Hydrocarbons Holdings Ltd in 2014, etc.
Dhoot, who is under ED's scanner, attempted to distance himself from the matter by blaming Deepak. He reportedly told ED that Rs. 64 crore was transferred to NRPL in return for loans sanctioned in 2009. He claimed Chanda was the one who told him a loan of Rs. 300 crore will only be sanctioned if he invests Rs. 64 crore in NRPL.
A suspicious deal linked to a flat in South Mumbai also caught ED's attention. The agency found that Videocon group had given the ownership of Flat No-45, CCI Chambers to Quality Advisors, a family trust of Chanda, for merely Rs. 11 lakh. The actual price of the flat in 2016 was Rs. 5.25 crore. Dhoot admitted that such a transaction indeed took place.
Defending his actions, Dhoot said Deepak threatened to tarnish his image if he didn't go ahead with the deal. He was allegedly told his loans would be declared non-performing assets, prematurely. As per ED, the proceeds of the crime are estimated at Rs. 78.15 crore. This includes Rs. 74.54 crore in the name of NRPL, a Mumbai flat, and Rs. 10.50 lakh seized from one of the firms of Deepak.
While Dhoot attempted to picture himself as a victim, ED believes he is equally responsible for siphoning off funds from ICICI Bank. He is accused of not utilizing the funds for intended purposes. Dhoot and Deepak, who was arrested in September, are accused of making gardeners and cleaners as board members of their companies. Naturally, the appointees had no knowledge about the companies.
ED said Supreme Energy Private Limited (SEPL), a company controlled by Deepak, had Sharad Mhatre as a director. Mhatre hasn't even cleared his tenth examination. Likewise, Kesharmal Gandhi was made the director of Indian Refrigerator Company Limited (IRCL), one of the companies linked with Dhoot. Gandhi had been working as a cleaner at Dhoot's bungalow in Ahmednagar since 1994.
Further, ED found that after an internal investigation was launched in ICICI Bank against Chanda in August 2016, Deepak changed his company's books to give the impression that Rs. 64 crore that he received from Videocon Group was a "genuine business transaction." According to ED "accounting entries in the books of SEPL were made to give an appearance of genuineness to the transaction."