The secretary’s statement effectively scotched any insinuation about a possible link between Ranjan’s transfer to the row over ICICI Bank’s loan to Videocon Group.
Lok Ranjan, a senior bureaucrat, will continue to be the government’s nominee on the ICICI Bank’s board despite his transfer from the department of financial services (DFS) to the department of personnel and training (DoPT), financial services secretary Rajeev Kumar said on Friday. “Ranjan will continue to be our nominee even though he is going to DoPT. There is no change,” Kumar said, when asked if the government will appoint a new nominee. The secretary’s statement effectively scotched any insinuation about a possible link between Ranjan’s transfer to the row over ICICI Bank’s loan to Videocon Group.
Rejecting such “misplaced insinuations”, another government official told FE: “Ranjan was appointed to the ICICI Board only last month. And, in line with the government’s decision (that its nominee won’t attend the board meetings of ICICI Bank until probe agencies submit their reports), he didn’t even attend the meetings. So where is the question of any link between the two (his transfer to DoPT and his being the government nominee on the ICICI Bank board) in the first place?” It’s a routine transfer, he added. Senior officials have already said the government will neither endorse nor criticise the ICICI Bank management in the Videocon loan case until the reports of investigative agencies are made available. However, it will act swiftly if probe reports indict the bank’s management. The government also feels that since it’s a minority shareholder (with 0.2% holding) in ICICI Bank, its views may not cut much ice with the bank’s board at this point. So, it will make its views known once it has probe reports to back its assertions.
The government nominee on the ICICI Bank board — who hasn’t been attending the board meetings after the Videocon loan controversy flared up in late March —will mark his presence once investigators give a clean chit to the board, the officials have said. Ranjan last month replaced Amit Agrawal, a joint secretary in the DFS, as the government’s nominee director on the bank’s board. ICICI Bank chief executive Chanda Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar are in the midst of the controversy on the issue of a Rs 3,250-crore loan to the Videocon Group in 2012. The deal recently made news after reports questioned the loan and linked it to a possible quid pro quo that Dhoot allegedly had with NuPower Renewables, a company founded by Deepak Kochchar.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the income tax department are investigating the allegations. ICICI Bank board, however, has stood by Chanda Kochhar. It has said the loan was granted by a consortium of banks, and ICICI Bank’s share was less than 10%. The lending decision was taken by a committee, which also included independent members.