As per the newspaper reports, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), is in hot pursuit, probing many charges of money laundering and related offences, in the Chanda Kochhar affair. The investigation includes her husband Deepak Kochhar, her brother in law Rajeev Kochhar and their many companies, both in India and abroad. A news item says that this questionable trio has been summoned again to personally appear before the ED and to explain the affairs and the serious allegations made against them. Chanda Kochhar has been asked to furnish details of her movable and immovable properties and assets and their source of acquisition, as also her income tax returns. She has also been asked to provide the disclosures made to the RBI, SEBI and other regulators. Since the alleged kickbacks were received by her husband’s entities, with the suspected involvement and support of her brother in law, they have been asked to furnish extensive information and documents, while include details of their assets, their tax returns, financial statements and accounts of their companies in India and abroad, in order to investigate charges of corruption, tax evasion, hawala and round-tripping to launder illegal funds.
Looking to the seriousness of the charges and that they were committed with the active involvement of the highest functionary ie. the CEO of ICICI Bank, to us, this probe needs to be conducted by the agencies, at a much faster pace. Those being investigated are the most influential and powerful persons, who if they choose to, can easily tamper evidence and influence witnesses and hence like in the case of the Japanese probe against the celebrated Carlos Ghosn who is back in the Tokyo jail, the probe must be swift and stringent. While the probe against Chanda Kochhar and her close relatives centres around crimes of corruption and money laundering, it is imperative to probe and answer many other questions, which to us are of a far more important nature, in order to cure the ills of the system, that permit the misdeeds of such top-level persons. Chanda Kochhar has not been found to be involved in an isolated case of corporate misconduct, but has been in a long series of them, during her tenure as CEO of ICICI Bank, or maybe even earlier. She had managed to game the system and undermine it for several years and hence the following questions need to be probed and answered.
- This saga of malpractices and misconduct of the Kochhars was spread almost over a decade. What is the reason that for such time, no whistleblower was willing to report her misdeeds, which now many of them are willing to? Or were there such complaints during her reign that were simply not allowed to surface?
- Chanda Kochhar violated regulations, due to the collusion of the other directors and auditors of ICICI Bank, none of whom dissented or objected to her misdeeds and malpractices. What was their incentive to be accomplices in such serious crimes?
- Why were the regulators like the RBI and SEBI so late in taking action against Chanda Kochhar? In fact, why did the RBI reportedly give her a clean chit in 2016, at a time when she was ruling the roost?
- What was the Income Tax Department doing when Deepak Kochhar’s companies were receiving illegal funds from the likes of Videocon, Essar Group and perhaps many others, and were evading taxes. Why did these misdeeds not coming on their investigation radar then itself?
- Who will compensate the bank and its shareholders, both of whom have suffered heavily due to the alleged crimes of Chanda Kochhar and of all those who colluded with her?
- With whistleblowers emerging one after the other, is ICICI Bank offering full cooperation to unearth the truth and punish the delinquents, or is it taking a passive/indifferent stand in the matter, as it earlier did?
- And finally the usual but the most important question. Who were the godfathers of Chanda Kochhar, who were responsible for her creation and let her misdeeds and misconduct go on for so long, with no fear of the law? Unless this question is not answered, such godfathers will create another Chanda Kochhar in the system.
And these answers will reply to every senior person, who was able to manipulate the system for years as Chanda Kochhar did and so have the likes of Ravi Parthasarathy, Hari Sankaran etc.