It is now a well accepted fact that Chanda Kochhar, the former CEO of the ICICI Bank, was at the centre of kickbacks, call it bribes, in respect of big ticket loans sanctioned by ICICI to various big corporates during her tenure, including to the likes of Videocon, Essar etc. most of which have turned NPA, inflicting huge losses to the bank. These kickbacks were not small amounts and ran into hundreds of crores of rupees. In the case of loans received by Videocon and Essar group, it has now been clearly established that huge kickbacks by way of share capital, were received by her husband’s company viz. NuPower Renewables, since receiving money by way of share capital was the best way to give a legal garb to an illegal transaction of bribes and also make it a tax free receipt for the Kochhar family. But then these are not the only cases where the Kochhars illegally benefited on account of loans and other favours granted by ICICI Bank, under Chanda Kochhar’s leadership. There are allegedly many others in this dubious list, which include the likes of Suzlon, Sterling Biotech, Jaypee Group, Bhushan Group etc.
With Justice B N Srikrishna having pronounced Chanda Kochhar guilty of violating the code of conduct at ICICI Bank, by not disclosing her husband’s company interests and other charges of corporate demeanour, the entire focus of investigating agencies like ED, CBI and the ITD, which are investigating the shocking case, has been to unearth the entire Kochhar scam, which was clearly based on bribes being given by corporates, under various forms and modus operandi to the Kochhar family, for favours done by Chanda Kochhar to unworthy and ineligible corporates, which included the sanction of loans and restructuring of accounts in blatant violation of the regulations, as also the internal rules of ICICI Bank itself.
The reality that is emerging out of these ongoing investigations of various agencies, particularly aided by whistleblowers at times is that Avista Advisory, the purported consulting firm run by Rajiv Kochhar, brother in law of Chanda Kochhar, was the key player for receiving kickbacks in lieu of illegal favours granted to numerous corporates by ICICI Bank, during Chanda Kochhar’s tenure. As per the website of Avista Advisory, it claims to be a boutique integrated financial services company with offices at Singapore and Mumbai, offering a comprehensive suite of services in investment banking and asset management, assisted by a team of seasoned bankers. It was always a known fact in banking and financial trade circles that Avista was the place to go to, for any work to be done with ICICI Bank, particularly that which flouted rules and regulations. It was also alleged in the Chanda Kochhar saga, that Avista had received lucrative consulting assignments from ICICI Bank for the restructuring of NPA accounts; its shady consulting only being to buy time for the defaulting corporates, before they finally turned bad, inflicting huge losses to the Bank.
And what was known about Avista in trade circles, is now exposed through serious allegations/information disclosed by a whistleblower from Singapore in a letter to the ED and CBI, stating that Avista’s primary role was to arrange loans and restructuring thereof, for which it received huge kickbacks from the likes of the Jaypee Group, Bhushan Power, Suzlon, Sterling Group etc. that too into companies tucked away in tax havens likes Cayman Islands and Singapore. The whistleblower mentions ten such companies which received kickbacks from such distressed groups for favours received. Apart from receiving such criminal payments, Avista indulged in tax evasion, money laundering and hawala transactions, in violation of many laws. The whistleblower urges an investigation into these specific incriminating transaction information provided by him. While Rajiv Kochhar the brother in law of Chanda Kochhar and the owner of Avista categorically denies such allegations, so was the case of many denials by Chanda Kochhar in the past, which finally proved to be blatantly wrong, leading to her unceremonious exit from the ICICI Bank.