Questions about a potential conflict of interest in loans given by ICICI Bank Ltd. to the Videocon Group have dominated headlines for the past few days. Questions emerged after the Indian Express published an investigation highlighting the financial dealings between the entities related to Videocon Group promoter Venugopal Dhoot and Deepak Kochhar, husband of ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar.
The transactions, however, were first highlighted by investor Arvind Gupta in 2016. Gupta wrote to the Prime Minister, the Reserve Bank of India governor and other authorities seeking an inquiry into the dealings. Gupta’s complaint got little or no attention then.
Gupta began studying NuPower Renewables – the company promoted by Deepak Kochhar – in 2010, he told BloombergQuint in an interview on Friday. He was also an investor in the Videocon Group and was familiar with their businesses. As he continued to look at both companies, he noticed the series of transactions now at the center of the controversy. Gupta sourced all his information from public documents and filings with the Registrar of Companies. His findings were published in a blogpost in 2016. He also shared with BloombergQuint the detailed letter written to concerned authorities in 2016.
Speaking to BloombergQuint, Gupta reiterated transactions that he felt raised eyebrows:
- Venugopal Dhoot’s decision to exit a 50-50 joint venture a month after establishing it.
- A transfer of shareholding by Deepak Kochhar to an entity called Supreme Energy – which was allegedly controlled by Dhoot in 2009-10.
- A Rs 64 crore unsecured loan given to NuPower Renewable by an entity related to Dhoot in 2009-10.
- A transfer back of shareholding from Supreme Energy to Deepak Kochhar in 2012 for a relatively low amount.
Gupta went on to question whether there was a conflict of interest in a Rs 3,250 crore loan granted by ICICI Bank to Videocon Industries in 2012, due to the dealings between Chanda Kochhar’s husband and the Videocon Group.
ICICI Bank in a statement denied that there was any conflict of interest in the loan approval to Videocon Industries and also reposed its confidence in Chanda Kochhar. At a press conference on Thursday, ICICI Bank Chairman MK Sharma added that Kochhar had made all necessary disclosures but did not specify what disclosures were made.
Gupta said he would prefer an external forensic audit to determine if all the transactions were kosher. “I only want a forensic audit to be done in transactions between ICICI Bank and Videocon Group and much more in the case of Videocon Group and NuPower Renewables,” Gupta told BloombergQuint.
When asked whether investigative agencies or concerned regulators have reached out to him for information, Gupta said they haven’t. “I am amazed to share with you that no one has responded…” Gupta said.