A special court in Mumbai on Saturday granted custody of Chanda Kochhar, former MD & CEO, ICICI Bank, and her husband Deepak Kochhar to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) till December 26. The order of the court came on a plea filed by the bureau in a case involving alleged irregularities in loans issued to the Videocon Group.
Chanda Kochhar and Deepak Kochhar were arrested on Friday by the investigative agency in Delhi and produced before a special court in Mumbai on Saturday.
In a first information report (FIR) filed in 2019, the CBI had named Chanda Kochhar, Deepak Kochhar, Nupower Renewables, along with Venugopal Dhoot of Videocon Group, and related entities under provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Prevention of Corruption Act.
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A Limosine, CBI prosecutor, sought three days of custody of Chanda Kochhar and her husband to conduct their probe. He submitted that while Kochhar was heading the bank, as many as six loans were sanctioned that are under the scanner. He submitted that she had put pressure for approval of these loans between 2009 and 2018.
Limosine submitted that Section 409 of the IPC was being added for criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant, or agent. He said both of them were served with a notice under Section 41A of Criminal Procedure Code on December 15. Under this section, a person is asked to appear before the investigators. However, when the two did not cooperate, they were arrested by the CBI, added Limosine.
Advocate Amit Desai, who appeared for the Kochhars, submitted that the investigation had started long ago and both of them had been available for investigation, but the CBI had not summoned them.
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He said that the bank had suffered no losses and, therefore, there was no reason for the Kochhars to be arrested.
Desai submitted that the accused are not obstructing the investigation nor were they tampering with any evidence. Also, they were not a flight risk, and ready to appear whenever called. So there was no ground for arresting them.
Desai questioned CBI action only against Kochhars and asked why Videocon chief Venugopal Dhoot was not arrested.
After hearing both the sides, Special CBI judge SM Menjoge noted that custodial interrogation would be needed to complete investigation and granted the three days’ custody as sought by CBI.
A few weeks back, the Bombay High Court had rejected an interim application filed by Chanda Kochhar challenging her termination as the managing director & chief executive officer of ICICI Bank. The High Court had also restrained her from dealing with any of the 690,000 ESOPs already exercised between 2018 and 2019.
Heading ICICI Bank as MD & CEO since 2009, Chanda Kochhar was removed from her post in 2019 after the Videocon Group scandal surfaced, where there was alleged quid pro quo routed via series of companies from Videocon Group to Deepak Kochhar for loans sanctioned by Chanda Kochhar.
The bank had appointed a committee headed by Justice BN Srikrishna, retired judge of the Supreme Court, to inquire the matter after whistleblower letters were sent to the lender back in 2018. The panel had concluded that Chanda Kochhar had committed serious violations of the code of conduct for extended periods of time.