New Delhi: Five months after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a preliminary enquiry into ICICI Bank Ltd’s relationship with Videocon Group, the agency seems in no hurry to register a case or close the investigation, breaching its own guidelines. The official position of the agency is that it is “not bound by any timeline".
A former senior agency official, however, said that CBI guidelines require it to close the preliminary enquiry or register a case within 90 days of it being registered.
“In this case, the CBI maybe waiting for some more documents to firm up the case," the official said, requesting anonymity.
Still, the lack of any decisive action in this case indicates that the federal agency has little to show since the preliminary enquiry was registered in March.
ICICI Bank is facing several investigations, including by CBI, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the markets regulator, since the allegations of conflict of interest and quid pro quo against the bank’s managing director and chief executive, Chanda Kochhar, in the Videocon loan case resurfaced in March.
CBI had registered the preliminary enquiry against Deepak Kochhar, husband of Chanda Kochhar, and Venugopal Dhoot, chairman of Videocon group, to investigate irregularities in the ₹ 40,000 crore loan made by a consortium of lenders.
“So far, CBI has collected documents pertaining to the ₹ 40,000 crore loan granted to Videocon group in 2012 and documents pertaining to setting up of NuPower (Deepak Kochhar’s company). The PE also names bank officials of public sector banks," said a second person familiar with the developments.
CBI is examining the documents collected to verify whether the preliminary enquiry should be converted into an FIR or not, the person added. While it takes about three months to decide whether a preliminary enquiry has enough merit for further investigation, the agency is “under no such constraint", the person said, adding that the probe was still open.
CBI has also said that it won’t share information with the Justice B.N. Srikrishna committee, which is probing allegations of misconduct against Chanda Kochhar.
“The investigation into the ICICI case is on and CBI will not share any details on the matter," another government official said on condition of anonymity. “The committee’s probe is independent of what the agencies have been doing and there is no question of any cooperation between the two."
In June, a panel was set up under retired Supreme Court judge Justice Srikrishna to probe allegations against Chanda Kochhar.
The panel is expected to submit its report by November to the bank’s non-executive chairman, G.C. Chaturvedi.
Officials familiar with both CBI and ED’s course of probe said the agencies would not summon the Kochhars for questioning anytime soon.
“From CBI’s end, there is nothing that is being done against the Kochhar family as of now. Neither is Chanda Kochhar being called in, nor is her husband Deepak Kochhar likely to be summoned now," another official familiar with the developments said, requesting anonymity. “Their questioning is not imminent. We will see what a further course of action entails."