Mumbai/New Delhi: Under the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) lens for alleged quid pro quo in receiving a loan from ICICI Bank, Videocon Group chairman Venugopal Dhoot has said he knew all the 12 members of the panel that had cleared the loan amount and asserted that personal ties between two people do not always result in criminal acts.
Reports have alleged quid pro quo between Videocon Group and the bank’s chief executive officer (CEO) Chanda Kochhar as well as her family members with respect to extending a loan worth Rs3,250 crore, an issue that has snowballed into a controversy even as the lender has come out in defence of Kochhar.
It was alleged that Videocon Group pumped money into NuPower Renewables, a firm owned by Deepak Kochhar, husband of Chanda Kochhar. To a specific question on Chanda Kochhar’s conduct, Dhoot said there was “nothing illegal".
She was only one of the 12 members of the committee which cleared the loan (of Rs3,250 crore) to Videocon Group, he said, claiming that he knew all 12 members, and former bank chairman K.V. Kamath, the head of the committee, used to have lunch with him.
Personal ties between two people do not always result in criminal acts, Dhoot said in an interview aired on Marathi television channel ABP Majha. Asked about the preliminary enquiry started by the CBI in this matter, Dhoot said the agency probes every allegation submitted to it, including “bogus complaints".
The CBI has questioned a few officials of ICICI Bank as part of the preliminary enquiry (PE) to find out if any quid pro quo was involved in the bank giving Rs3,250 crore loan to the Videocon Group in 2012. The PE has named Videocon Group promoter Venugopal Dhoot, Deepak Kochhar and unknown persons, according to CBI officials.
Separately, Dhoot told PTI that loans sanctioned by ICICI Bank were based on the merit of projects in the oil and gas sector. “There was no quid pro quo from ICICI Bank to Videocon as ICICI Bank has under the consortium arrangement (with other lenders and leader bank being SBI) and which is less than 10 per cent loan to Videocon Group... the sanction by the ICICI Bank has been done on the merit of the projects and therefore, there is no question of any quid pro quo," he said.
When NuPower Renewables started, Dhoot said he had invested around Rs2.5 lakh in the company but immediately sold the entire investment. He also denied reports that his group had invested Rs64 crore in NuPower Renewables.
“This is not correct and we deny as we have not invested Rs64 crore in FCD (fully convertible debentures) of NuPower Renewables," he said and also denied allegations of transferring around Rs325 crore from Mauritius route to Deepak Kochhar’s company. In his interview to the channel, Dhoot said he had agreed to invest Rs2.5 lakh in Nupower Renewables as Deepak Kochhar was an “old acquaintance".
ICICI Bank was headed by K.V. Kamath at that time, Dhoot said, claiming that he did not know if Chanda Kochhar was associated with the bank then. According to Dhoot, he got to know Deepak Kochhar through his friend and IAS officer, former Maharashtra chief secretary Sharad Upasani.
He had no contact with either Deepak Kochhar or Chanda Kochhar after the return of the stake, he said. ICICI Bank had loaned $100 million through its Canadian subsidiary to Videocon, which was repaid in full with interest, Dhoot said, adding that there were enquiries by the Enforcement Directorate in the matter, but it did not find any wrongdoing under the foreign exchange management laws.
“It is a circle of time where people face a difficult time. It is like the agni-pariksha (litmus test) gone through by Sita and I am sure I will pass it this time," said Dhoot, who is known to have a keen interest in mythology.