ICICI, Videocon shareholder had warned PMO of ‘illicit banking and commercial relationship’ in 2016

ICICI, Videocon shareholder had warned PMO of ‘illicit banking and commercial relationship’ in 2016

In a letter to the PMO, Arvind Gupta had spoken of 'illicit banking and commercial relationship’ between Videocon Group and ICICI Bank MD & CEO Chanda Kochhar’s family.

By NL Team

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The Indian Express’ lead story today, headlined “Videocon gets Rs 3250-cr loan from ICICI Bank, bank CEO’s husband gets sweet deal from Dhoot”, details a stunning case of conflict of interest that involves country’s top corporate and bank. Essentially, the story pertains to what might have been a kickback from Videocon to ICICI Chief Operating Officer Chanda Kochar’s husband in lieu of a Rs 3,250-crore loan. This loan was declared as a non-performing asset in 2017.

Here’s how The Express’ graphic explains the ‘sweet deal’.

ICICI, Videocon shareholder had warned PMO of ‘illicit banking and commercial relationship’ in 2016

Interestingly, a letter by one Arvind Gupta to Prime Minister’s Office, dated March 15, 2016, points to “illicit banking and commercial relationship between Videocon Group of Venugopal Dhoot and ICICI Bank’s MD & CEO Chanda Kochhar’s family-owned NuPower Renewable Group”. Gupta introduces himself as “a vigilant investor shareholder of the Videocon Group and the ICICI Bank”.

In the letter, Gupta has added an annexure that details the “chronology of events relating to the nexus between the ICICI Bank CEO & MD specifically with Venugopal Dhoot of Videocon Group”.

A copy of the letter was also sent to Finance Minister and agencies like Central Bureau of Investigation, Reserve Bank of India and Enforcement Directorate. Gupta says in the second paragraph that the fact that the Videocon Group had made donations to the Bharatiya Janata Party should not come in the way of an investigation into the case.

The letter says: “Sir, the fact that the Videocon Group led by Mr Venugopal N Dhoot has made hefty political contribution of Rs. 11.1 crore to the Bhartiya Janta Party’s (BJP) led Union Government during the year 2014, as against just Rs. 5 lakh in the previous year, should not deter the Government to order an appropriate independent investigation to bring out the truth relating to opaque corporate transactions and prevent impending banking crisis in the ICICI Limited.”

In Videocon’s annual report of 2014, there is a mention of the company paying Rs 111 million (Rs 11.1 crore) to Bharatiya Janata Party, Rs 0.5 crore to the Indian National Congress, Rs 5 crore to Nationalist Congress Party and Rs 0.5 crore to the Telugu Desam Party. In 2013, Videocon had paid Rs 0.1 crore to Bharatiya Janata Party and Rs 1 crore to the Nationalist Congress Party. The 2013 annual report also states that in the previous year the party had paid Rs 0.3 crore to Bihar Pradesh Janata Dal (United).

In a follow-up letter dated February 18, 2017, Gupta again wrote to the PMO highlighting the deteriorating health of the bank and pointing at the increase in its NPAs — Rs 37,717 crore as of December 31, 2016. The letter hopes that the PMO has initiated an investigation into his previous letter to “avert a corporate collapse”. He also requested to be kept abreast of any development in the case.

When Newslaundry spoke to Gupta, he informed us that he is yet to receive any communication from the PMO pertaining to the letter. “No response from any government agency so far…once you people [the media] pick up, they may respond,” he said. Gupta added that he had only flagged the issue to the government and not the company or the bank, and that most of the information is in the public domain.

Newslaundry’s attempt to get in touch with PMO and Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson did not yield any response. The story will be updated as and when we get a response.