ICICI Bank loan controversy: Ambit of the probe should be widened, whistleblower Arvind Gupta tells Firstpost

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday registered an FIR against former ICICI CEO Chanda Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochchar and Videocon’s Venugopal Dhoot in connection with the alleged irregularities in the Rs 3,250 crore loan case.

Arvind Gupta, the whistleblower who brought out the scam, had exposed alleged dealings between the bank, through Chanda Kochhar, and the Videocon Group to benefit her family.

In June 2018, levelling fresh allegations of quid pro quo deals by Chanda Kochhar, Gupta had alleged that Ruia brothers of Essar group got undue favours from the bank for "round-tripping" investments into her spouse Deepak Kochhar's NuPower Group.

The Ruias funded the NuPower and its subsidiary through their son-in-law Nishant Kanodia and nephew Anirudh Bhuwalka during December 2010 to March 2012 by subscribing to compulsorily convertible preference shares and equity shares, Gupta had alleged in his fresh letter dated 11 May, 2018, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

ICICI Bank loan controversy: Ambit of the probe should be widened, whistleblower Arvind Gupta tells Firstpost

A file photograph of an ICICI Bank branch. Reuters.

In April 2018, Gupta had, while alleging masked share transfers, demanded that NuPower Renewables — the company founded by ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar's husband Deepak Kochhar — must disclose the real identity of its majority shareholder DH Renewables Holding Ltd of Mauritius.

Arvind Gupta, the whistleblower who brought out the alleged scam, in an interview with Firstpost’s Dinesh Unnikrishnan says the ambit of the probe should be widened.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

What’s your reaction after the CBI registered FIR against Chanda Kochchar in Videocon case?

No question of being very happy or unhappy. The fact is that everything had started very long back. Everybody in the system was saying that nothing is gone. Even the ICICI board management, they gave clean chit then and there.

Do you think the board was misdirecting the public from the very beginning in this case?

She (Chanda Kochhar) was at the helm of affairs of the bank. The risk committee and the credit committee. She was a very powerful person on the board. The chairman of the bank continued holding press conferences and saying it is all rubbish, everything is fine.

Not only that, if you recall, the RBI, SEBI all came forward and said look nothing has been found against her. Legal adviser Mangal Das and others came forward and gave a clean chit. I came to know about it recently.

Now an FIR has been registered in this case. What more should be done on the bank’s side?

It is the investigating agency that will dig deeper into the case. And I would like to know as to how far it has gone. The investigation only will provide further details.

If you see, ICICI Bank has very prominent defaulters in the country. Now the loans have become NPAs. I feel that the ambit of the probe should be widened.

Does the board owe an apology to the depositors and to the public for what happened in the bank?

An apology is a very soft and polished word. I say they are all hand in glove. Why are you being soft with them? There are many board members who are in the risk committee, the credit committee, and independent directors. Do you want me to believe that they are not aware of what’s happening in the bank?

So there is a case for a  deeper investigation into the case?

She is not the only person to take the decision by herself. There has to be an organizational hierarchy and some other person had seen it for a pretty long time.

How has been your experience so far in this case?

The experience was very challenging sometimes because the entire system gangs up against you. Nobody would listen.

Have you faced any threats?

No threat. How can there be any threat?

Was there any attempts to negotiate with you not to escalate the issue further?

Not at all. Nobody in the bank.

You have also raised a few other cases including Essar. Any updates?

I only see them when they surface in media. But I feel that the scope has to widen and the hands of the law should not remain within the country. It should go beyond because only then you will come to know the kind of quid-pro-quo and bad banking happened in the country.

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Updated Date: Jan 24, 2019 18:38:37 IST

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