Business & Finance

Chanda Kochhar’s Rs.800 crores

She was finally sacked by the bank, which incurred huge financial losses and reputation risk, due to her shocking misconduct

Mumbai: The law of the land is finally catching up with Ms. Chanda Kochhar, the former high profile Padma Bhushan awardee CEO of ICICI Bank, who was finally sacked on charges of corruption and such malpractices. The story so far is that loans were given by ICICI Bank to the Videocon and Essar Group, when she was its CEO, for quid pro quo running into hundreds of crores of rupees. These fraudulent loans caused losses running in thousands of crores to the ICICI Bank and the quid pro quo or bribes paid to her came in the form of so-called investments by Videocon and Essar in her husband’s company viz. NuPower Renewables, which became the platform to receive these funds of corruption, on her behalf. Her husband, Deepak Kochhar was clearly a party to these shady/dubious transactions and so was her brother in law Rajeev Kochhar, who anyway otherwise benefitted immensely due to lucrative consulting assignments of restructuring and settlement of NPA accounts of ICICI, when she was its top boss.

It all started with a whistleblower’s complaint, which led to a CBI inquiry that commenced in the matter in February 2018. The ICICI board of directors initially backed her to the hilt, saying that she had done nothing wrong and that the entire board was with her and so did the RBI give her a clean chit. But as the inquiry against her by a slew of agencies including CBI, ITD, SEBI, and ED advanced further, her guilt in the matter was clearly evident. As part of the investigation against her, she was raided by the ITD and the CBI too. The Justice Srikrishna panel which was appointed by the bank to conduct an inquiry found her guilty in its report in January 2019. She was finally sacked by the bank, which incurred huge financial losses and reputation risk, due to her shocking misconduct.

At present, she faces investigation and proceedings against her by a number of agencies, including SEBI, ITD, CBI, and the ED, apart from lawsuits in respect of ICICI’s claim that she pay back all the incentive and bonuses and shares allotted to her, valued at dozens of crores, for her misconduct and criminal malpractices. The latest in the case is that the ED is proposing to attach her properties and investments worth about Rs.800 crores, on charges of money laundering of proceeds of crime. The assets include a posh South Mumbai apartment, her husband’s office premises, shares, and investments. That’s a huge booty belonging to a person, who in reality was a mere bank employee. The irony is that she resided in this apartment in question, for many years without paying any rent to its then actual owner ie. Videocon and it was finally purchased for a song from Videocon, by a Kochhar family-owned company. She interestingly said at one point in time that she was not aware that she was staying rent-free in a posh apartment that belonged to Videocon, saying that she is not aware of her husband’s affairs. Nobody, including Justice Srikrishna, found any truth in this baseless claim of hers.

In our opinion, the rot in the banks started from the top. The huge blatant scams and banking frauds that we see today and the cheating of banks that took place, where giant funds were misused and siphoned, could not have taken place without the direct involvement of the top bankers and they did so primarily for reasons of corruption. That explains why, the likes of Videocon and Essar got loans of thousands of crores from ICICI Bank, which eventually turned bad. While a small borrower cannot get loans without offering heavy security and personal guarantee, the big ones get tens of thousands of crores, without giving either. Like in the case of Chanda Kochhar, it is they who need to be deprived of their ill-gotten wealth by confiscating it and giving them the most stringent punishment. And if bankers are punished in this manner, so must be the case with fraudulent borrowers. We thus await similar punishment being meted out to the influential promoters of Videocon and Essar. We need such punishment being meted out to borrowers/bankers as in the case of PMC Bank, HDIL, DHFL, Alok Industries, Jet Airways, ILFS, and many others. And finally, will this even end? We don’t think it will, till the kingpins of these crimes are punished viz. the top babus and netas, under whose shadows, these frauds take place.

 

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