Mumbai: The Enforcement Directorate has temporarily attached Rs 78 crore worth of properties belonging to former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar as part of its investigation into a money laundering case involving the bank and the Videocon Group.
The provisionally attached properties include her Mumbai apartment and those belonging to a company owned by her husband, Deepak Kochhar. Speaking shortly after the Enforcement Directorate's order, Ms Kochhar's lawyer, Sujay Kantawala, said the agency now had 180 days to prove the purchase of the flat was from "so-called proceeds of crime".
Mr Kantawala also said that because these were "provisional attachment orders" the owner could not be dispossessed, meaning the former ICICI bank chief can continue to live in the apartment. However, she cannot sell or mortgage it.
The ED had registered a criminal case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) earlier in 2019 against Chanda Kochhar, husband Deepak Kochhar, Videocon group’s owner Venugopal Dhoot and others to probe alleged irregularities and corrupt practices in sanctioning Rs 1,875-crore loans by the ICICI Bank to the Videocon group. The core of the case is related to a loan of Rs 3,250 crore to Videocon Group between 2009 and 2011 and the Videocon Group’s owner Venugopal Dhoot had invested in Deepak Kochhar's firm NuPower Renewables Ltd via his company Supreme Energy. Ms Chanda Kochhar was heading ICICI bank at that time.
It is also probing at least two other instances of loans given by ICICI Bank (during Ms Kochhar's tenure) to Gujarat-based pharmaceutical firm Sterling Biotech and to Bhushan Steel Group; both these are also being probed on alleged money laundering charges.
The Enforcement Directorate case is based on a complaint registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is running an independent investigation; it too had named all three individuals and added three companies, including two under the Videocon name, owned by Mr Dhoot's companies. NuPower Renewables, a company controlled by Deepak Kochhar, had also been named. The CBI has alleged that Mr Dhoot invested in NuPower through another company - Supreme Energy - in a quid pro quo deal via loans cleared by ICICI after Ms Kochhar took over as CEO in May 2009.
In preliminary investigations the CBI found six loans worth Rs 1,875 crore were sanctioned between June 2009 and October 2011, in alleged violation of established policies. These loans were declared non-performing assets in 2012, causing a loss of Rs 1,730 crore to the bank, the CBI further alleged.