Chanda Kochhar and her husband questioned by ED

During their questioning by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday, former ICICI Bank CEO, Chanda Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar submitted documents related to their personal finances as well as investments in different companies; details of movable and immovable properties; and disclosures made before the Reserve Bank of India, SEBI (Securities Exchange Board of India) and other regulators, according to an official familiar with the matter.

The former leading banker has engaged Delhi-based advocate, Vijay Aggarwal, who is also Nirav Modi’s lawyer, to defend her. Aggarwal has successfully defended several accused in 2G scam case in the past.

Interestingly, while they were being questioned at the ED office on Monday, the Kochhars also moved the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) appellate tribunal seeking the release of documents related to two companies linked to Deepak Kochhar – Pacific Capital Services Pvt Ltd and Quality Techno Advisors Pvt Ltd — which were seized by ED on March 1.

Appearing for the Kochhars, Aggarwal argued that “the companies were not named in the FIR” and that “the seizure of laptops, electronic records, hard disk is causing disruption in the day-to-day work of these companies.”

An ED officer familiar with the developments said that the agency had also seized Rs 10 lakh cash from Kochhars, which the couple wants released. Aggarwal declined comment.

An ED officer who asked not to be named said Kochhar was asked questions about the loans given to the Videocon group, Sterling Biotech Ltd, Bhushan Steel Pvt Ltd and the Jaypee Group by ICICI Bank when she was at the helm of affairs.

The central agency is trying to figure out if Deepak Kochhar’s company NuPower Renewables received money from any company around the time a loan was disbursed by ICICI Bank to the latter. The ED officer cited above said the investments, bank account details and property documents submitted by the couple are being tallied with the information independently collected by the investigators from different sources.

The couple is likely to be called again for questioning on Tuesday. Last month, Chanda Kochhar’s brother in law, Rajiv Kochhar was questioned by ED.

The ED probe is based on a Central Bureau of Investigation FIR registered in January this year, in which Chanda Kochhar, is named as accused along with her husband Deepak Kochhar, and Videocon group MD, Venugopal Dhoot.

ED has further extended its probe to other loans in March after receiving some fresh complaints from a whistleblower in Singapore (where Rajiv Kochhar is based), said the ED officer quoted above.

It has been alleged that six high value loans worth Rs 1,875 crores were illegally given to Videocon group companies between June 2009 and October 2011 when Chanda Kochhar was the bank CEO.

It has been further alleged in the CBI FIR that the Kochhars received a quid-pro-quo through the transfer of Dhoot’s stake in NuPower Renewables to Deepak Kochhar (a co-promoter of the company) after a Rs 300 crore loan was given to Videocon by ICICI Bank.

Kochhar, who stepped down from ICICI Bank on October 4, defended herself before the ED in March this year saying the loans were given on merit and have no link with her husband’s business.

CBI, earlier this year issued a look out circular (LoC) at all the airports against Chanda Kochhar, Deepak Kochhar and Dhoot, to ensure they cannot travel out of India.

First Published:
May 13, 2019 22:42 IST

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