The CBI officer investigating the Rs 3,250 crore scam against former ICICI CEO Chanda Kochhar has been transferred. Sudhanshu Dhar Mishra, who was Superintendent of Police in the agency’s Banking and Securities Fraud Cell, had now been shifted to CBI’s Economic Offences Branch in Ranchi, Jharkhand.
The shocking development came a day after former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley launched an astonishing attack on the CBI, expressing his disgust on the filing of the FIR against Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar. Also named in the Rs 3,250 crore scam were Videocon head Venugopal Dhoot. The CBI on 24 January had named KV Kamath, Sanjoy Chatterjee, NS Kanan, Sandeep Bakshi Rajeev Sabharwal, Zarin Daruwala, Homi Khushroo Khan and Ram Kumar in the FIR. They too are likely to face the prosecution since, according to the FIR, the decision to grant a loan of Rs 1575 crore to Dhoot, had their approval.
Jaitley, who is undergoing a treatment for his soft tissue cancer in the US, had slammed the CBI for taking punitive action against the Kochhars and other prominent names from the financial world. He had written, “There is a fundamental difference between investigative adventurism and professional investigation. Investigative adventurism involves casting the net too wide including people with no mens rea or even having a common intention to commit an offence, relying on presumptions and surmises with no legally admissible evidence. Adventurism leads to media leaks, ruins reputations and eventually invites strictures and not convictions. In the process, the targets are ruined because of harassment, loss of reputation and financial costs. It costs people their career.”
Jaitley’s link to Rs 3,250 crore scam
Since people have short memory in India, it’s worth casting our minds back to last year when the Rs 3,250 crore scam was first brought to light by a whistle-blower Arvind Gupta.
In his complaint Gupta had demanded an appropriate investigation into ‘illicit banking and commercial relationship between Videocon Group of Venugopal Dhoot and the then ICICI Bank’s MD & CEO Chanda Kochhar’s family owned NuPower Renewable Group steered by her husband Deepak Kochhar.’ Gupta had accused accused Kochhars of ‘amassing wrongful personal gains by deceiving stakeholders, shareholders, public / private sector banks and Indian Regulatory Agencies for unjust and illegal enrichment through corrupt banking practices within India and tax heavens by a high level CBI/ED/SFIO/SEBI/the RBI team to ensure healthy private sector Banking.’ She was later forced to resign from her post as the MD and the CEO of ICICI.
Chanda Kochhar, a known friend of PM Modi, is alleged to have favoured Videocon Group in its lending practices. She was one of the first big corporate names to have lent her support to PM Modi’s pet scheme, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, by making it mandatory for ICICI branches to actively take part in the campaign.
Chanda Kochhar was last year summoned by the anti-fraud agency, SFIO, in a bank fraud case related to over Rs 5,000 crore loan extended to diamond merchant Mehul Choksi.
You can read the full letter here. Gupta said that he had also informed Finance Minister Arun Jaitley about the scam. But neither PM Modi nor Jaitley had chosen to take appropriate actions against Kochhar until a section of media including Janta Ka Reporter published Gupta’s revelation in full.
Gupta said that he had repeatedly sent the letters to PM Modi and Jaitley but no one bothered to respond to his communication. Gupta’s exhaustive letter had exposed how Dhoot and Deepak Kochhar had set up a joint venture company called NuPower Renewables Private Limited in Mumbai. Dhoot is then alleged to have given a loan of Rs 64-crore to the newly formed company through a fully owned entity before he transferred the latter’s ownership to a trust headed by Deepak Kochhar for just Rs 9 lakh.
The transfer of ownership to Deepak Kochchar took place just six months after the Videocon Group was given a loan of Rs 3,250 crore from ICICI Bank, headed by Chanda Kochhar.
The latest episode of financial scandal will cause even more embarrassment to PM Modi and his government in the wake of its questionable role in the Rs 11,500 crore PNB scam.
Jaitley’s fierce defence of scam-tainted Kochhars and rebuke to his own government’s probe agency explains why he had chosen not to act imemdiately after the scam was brought to his notice by Gupta.