Special Judge Anju Bajaj Chandna allowed Rajiv to travel to New York on a personal bond of Rs 10 lakh and directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to suspend the look out circular (LOC) till then.
A Delhi court Thursday allowed former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar’s brother-in-law Rajiv Kochhar, a suspect in a bank loan fraud and money laundering case, to travel abroad for 10 days. Special Judge Anju Bajaj Chandna allowed Rajiv to travel to New York on a personal bond of Rs 10 lakh and directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to suspend the look out circular (LOC) till then.
The court kept his application, seeking cancellation of LOC, for hearing on June 3 after ED’s special public prosecutor Nitesh Rana said the agency needed time to file a detailed reply on the issue. Chanda and her husband Deepak along with Rajiv have been questioned by the ED which is probing the case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
In his application, moved by senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, Rajiv said his “younger son is studying in New York University and has his ‘graduating ceremony’ on May 21 and 22 in New York, USA. The occasion marks an important and significant day/event in the life of the son and the applicant…”
Rajiv, founder of Singapore-based Avista Advisory, informed the court that the CBI has already cancelled the LOC issued against him. He told the court that he has cooperated in the probe and further undertakes to assist the agency in future as and when required. He further claimed that he and his family were estranged from his brother Deepak and sister-in-law Chanda due to a family fall out because of which the applicant has started his own independent business and has no business or personal connection, of any nature, either with them or any of their companies.
ED registered a criminal case under the PMLA early this year against Chanda, Deepak, Videocon promoter Venugopal Dhoot and others to probe alleged irregularities and corrupt practices in sanctioning Rs 1,875-crore loans by ICICI Bank to the corporate group, the probe agency’s advocate A R Aditya said. The action was based on an FIR registered by the CBI.
Rajiv has been questioned by the CBI as well in the same case in the past. He was asked by CBI sleuths about the help he had extended to Videocon in relation to a loan from ICICI Bank, which was part of a Rs 400-billion credit given by a consortium of 20 banks to the group’s main promoter, Dhoot.
The searches were conducted at the premises of Chanda, her family and Dhoot in Mumbai and Aurangabad. CBI has named the three as also Dhoot’s companies — Videocon International Electronics Ltd (VIEL) and Videocon Industries Limited (VIL) — in its case. It also named Supreme Energy, a company founded by Dhoot, and NuPower Renewables, a company controlled by Deepak, in the FIR.
The CBI alleged that Dhoot had invested in Nupower through his firm Supreme Energy in a quid pro quo to loans cleared by ICICI Bank after Chanda took over as the CEO of the bank on May 1, 2009. The ownership of Nupower and Supreme Energy changed hands through a complex web of shared transactions between Deepak and Dhoot, the CBI alleged.
During its preliminary enquiry, the CBI found that six loans worth Rs 1,875 crore were sanctioned to the Videocon Group and companies associated with it between June, 2009 and October, 2011 in alleged violation of laid-down policies of ICICI Bank, which have now become part of the probe. “Existing outstanding in the accounts of these private group companies were adjusted in Rupee Term Loan of Rs 1,730 crore sanctioned by ICICI Bank under refinance of domestic debt under consortium arrangement on April 26, 2012,” the CBI had said.
The loans were declared non-performing assets in 2012, causing a loss of Rs 1,730 crore to the bank, it alleged.
The ED, the sources said, is also probing at least two other instances of loans given by ICICI Bank (during Chanda Kochhar’s tenure) to Gujarat-based pharmaceutical firm Sterling Biotech and to Bhushan Steel group. The agency is investigating these two instances of alleged bank loan fraud under the PMLA.