Chanda Kochhar, former managing director and chief executive officer (CEO) of ICICI Bank, has reportedly said that two of the six loans given to the Videocon group — which are currently under the Enforcement Directorate (ED) investigation for alleged corruption — were approved before her appointment at the top post at the private sector lender.
Further, the former CEO of ICICI Bank mentioned that she was just one of the 31 top executives who were part of credit approval committees that had sanctioned high-value loans to the beleaguered group from 2009 to 2018.
In a statement before the ED adjudicating authority (AA), the troubled banker defended allegations of ‘quid pro quo’ over loans approved by the bank when she was the head of ICICI Bank, mentioning that the loans were standard performing assets till early 2017.
“…. during the entire period of association of ICICI with Videocon Group, ICICI Bank has earned a high amount of fee and interest till 2016. The loans were standard performing assets till early 2017, which is when the entire exposure of the entire banking system to Videocon was declared NPA,” Kochhar said.
Worth mentioning here is that in September this year the ED had arrested Deepak Kochhar, husband of Chanda Kochhar, in connection with ICICI Bank-Videocon money laundering case, and it was the first arrest since the case was registered in February 2019. In October 2018, Chanda Kochhar had quit the bank after being mired in allegations that she favoured Videocon Group.
Asserting that the loans were approved as part of the bank’s ordinary course of business, the former ICICI Bank boss explained the roles of six senior bankers named in the FIR.
“The FIR contains the names of the other senior personnel who participated in the committees that sanctioned the said six loans. These senior people are no pushovers and hence the committees would have rejected and not recommended the proposal if it was not as per merits,” she said.
Last week, the AA said that probing agencies had failed to quiz these senior officials. The order came while dismissing the ED’s plea seeking attachment of the assets of Kochchar and her arrested husband Deepak Kochhar—worth Rs 78.15 crore—seized by it in January.
“The senior officials–namely Sandeep Bakshi, K Ramkumar, Sonjoy Chatterjee, NS Kannan, Zarin Daruwala, Rajiv Sabharwal, KV Kamath and Homi Khusrokhan–though known and identified, were neither interrogated for the alleged scheduled offences by CBI nor interrogation, if any, revealed by the CBI or the ED,” AA concluded in its order, the financial daily said.
The AA found Kochhar’s argument valid that a rupee term loan (RTL) of Rs 300 crore had not turned into a bad loan. The investigating agencies examining allegations of quid pro quo and money laundering primarily focussed on this loan.
“As the MD & CEO, I had no involvement in the origination, processing, or the detailed due diligence carried out by various departments of these loans. I have not approved any of these loans independently. Even as the MD & CEO I did not have any veto power in any committee,” Kochhar’s statement mentioned.