New Delhi: In a move that brought to a head its year-long probe into the case, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday booked former ICICI Bank Ltd chief executive Chanda Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar and Videocon group managing director Venugopal Dhoot for criminal conspiracy and cheating.

With the probe agency accusing Kochhar of receiving illegal gratification, cheating and criminal conspiracy when she was at the helm of the bank, the spotlight is back on financial crimes involving top executives of the banking sector.

While Deepak Kochhar declined to comment on the matter, calls and messages to Dhoot remained unanswered. Chanda Kochhar could not be reached for comment.

CBI had registered a preliminary enquiry against Deepak Kochhar and Dhoot in March 2018 to investigate irregularities in the 40,000 crore loan made by a consortium of lenders to the Videocon group. It also pointed to an alleged conflict of interest in a 3,250 crore loan made to the Videocon group by ICICI Bank.

While Chanda Kochhar, one of the members of the loan sanctioning committee, has been accused of alleged “criminal conspiracy to cheat ICICI Bank dishonestly by abusing her official position" and receiving “illegal gratification and undue benefit through her husband", the first information report (FIR) filed by CBI on 22 January also names, among others, Sandeep Bakhshi, chief operating officer of ICICI Bank, as well as K.V. Kamath, who heads New Development Bank of BRICS countries and was managing director and CEO of ICICI Bank from 1996 till 2009.

Both of them, along with six others named in the FIR, could be investigated in the future.

“These loans were sanctioned in violation of credit policy of the bank during the relevant period (from 2009 to 2011). These loans… were sanctioned on various dates by various committees having senior officials of ICICI Bank namely Sandeep Bakshi, K. Ramkumar, Sonjoy Chatterjee, N.S. Kannan, Zarin Daruwala, Rajiv Sabharwal, K.V. Kamath and Homi Khusrokhan… The role of these senior officers of the sanctioning committee may also be investigated," the FIR states.

The said loan by ICICI Bank to the Videocon group was part of a 40,000 crore loan by a consortium of 20 banks in 2012, and was in contravention of “the Banking Regulation Act, Reserve Bank of India guidelines and credit policy of the bank".

Dhoot had allegedly, as part of a quid pro quo arrangement, given 64 crore in 2010 through a fully owned entity to NuPower Renewables Pvt. Ltd that he had set up with Deepak Kochhar and two of his relatives. It was alleged that Dhoot transferred proprietorship of the company to a trust owned by Deepak Kochhar for 9 lakh, six months after receiving the loan from ICICI Bank—an allegation that Kochhar had earlier denied to Mint.

On Thursday, CBI carried out searches at four locations in Mumbai and Aurangabad, including the Mumbai offices of Videocon, NuPower and Supreme Energy Pvt. Ltd, another company founded by Deepak Kochhar. 

Also read: Chanda Kochhar and ICICI Bank: A bitter parting?

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