Chanda Kochhar: From Padma Bhushan To Jail

Chanda Kochhar

It was then that Chanda Kochhar finally stepped down and resigned. However, to date, she and her husband have denied any wrongdoing.

Former ICICI Bank CEO and MD Chanda Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar were produced before the Mumbai special court by the CBI on Saturday, December 24. In a case related to alleged irregularities in loans provided to Venugopal Dhoot’s Videocon Group, the court granted the CBI custody of the couple till Monday (December 26). The couple was arrested on Friday.

The rise of Chanda Kochhar

Kochhar who began her journey at ICICI as a trainee rose through the ranks in the bank. The company from a small financial services institution went on to become one of India’s largest lenders and a private financial behemoth that changed the face of the banking sector in the country.

Through the early 2000s,  Kochhar received various big projects as ICICI tried to set itself apart in a still nascent market.

Finally, in 2009, she beat several other contenders to get the Bank’s top job. Throughout her tenure, the defining feature of her leadership had been her control over the business and her attention to detail. She also meticulously curated a public image of herself.

In 2010, the biggest honour was bestowed upon her by the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government when Kochhar was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s highest civilian award, for achievements in the field of business.

Chanda Kochhar also featured in Forbes International’s “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” list for seven years on the trot and was also named among TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” in the world in 2015.

The Downfall:

There had been murmurs about Kochhar’s conflict of interest as far back as 2016. However, it was only in 2018 that the story started getting traction.

While initially, ICICI’s board rubbished all the allegations against her, persistent media scrutiny and questions from investors forced the bank to set up an inquiry to investigate if the bank’s policies regarding conflict of interest and internal lending had been violated.

It was then that Chanda Kochhar finally stepped down and resigned. However, to date, she and her husband have denied any wrongdoing.

However, Independent banking circles claim that the ICICI Bank reported the maximum NPAs during Chanda’s tenure, and as per an RTI response received by a Pune-based RTI activist Prafful Sarda, it had accumulated up to a staggering around Rs 200,000 crore till 2021.

“RTI details shared by RBI clearly shows Chanda Kochhar has been aggressively favourable to Videocon group in all the possible ways.” Said Sarda speaking to HW News.
“She was an inspiration to many across the country but her hunger for money and power downgraded the Indian banking system. ” Sardha added.
Appealing to the PMO and the president of India Sarda said: “It’s high time RBI should reframe credit-related policy matters to avoid further damage to the economy.  I urge the PMO and President of India must take back her Padmashri and Padmabhushan and set up an example before the nation.
RBI NPA RTI (Response to RTI)

What is the Videocon loan case?

The allegation against Kochhar is simple: she and her family received various kickbacks over her tenure in lieu of loans provided to the Videocon group, many of which would eventually turn into non-performing assets (NPAs).

In 2019, the Enforcement Directorate said that Deepak Kochhar’s NuPower Renewables received funding of ₹ 64 crores through a maze of shell companies from Venugopal Dhoot’s Videocon group. This came only weeks after the Videocon group got a ₹ 3,250 crore loan from ICICI Bank.

It is alleged that six loans worth ₹ 1,875 crores were sanctioned for the Videocon Group and its associated companies in the period of 2009-11 when Chanda Kochhar was at the bank’s helm.

Almost all of these loans became non-performing assets, causing a loss of ₹ 1,730 crores to the bank.

In 2019, the probe agency registered a criminal case of money laundering against the Kochhars, Dhoot, and some others.

Chanda Kochhar’s role in clearing the loans

CBI claimed that the loan was cleared by a committee of which Kochhar was a member. The investigation agency said that she misused her official position and “got illegal gratification/undue benefit through her husband from Dhoot for sanctioning loans to Videocon.”

Denying the allegations, Chanda Kochhar had said in a statement “I reiterate that none of the credit decisions at the bank is unilateral… the organization design and structure obviate the possibility of conflict of interest.”

Speaking to India TV in 2019, Deepak Kochhar asked: “Where is the conflict of interest? ICICI Bank will have relationships with all top corporates in India. If I can’t touch any corporate that deals with ICICI, is it fair to me? Can I function like this? I am a Bajaj MBA and a Harvard alumnus. I am an educated professional. Should I sit at home just because my wife is the CEO of ICICI?”

In the latest development to the case, the CBI has today arrested Videocon Group’s co-founder and CEO Venugopal Dhoot. The CBI has also accused the Kochhar couple of non-cooperation in the investigation.

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