No Coercive Action Against Chanda Kochhar: Probe Agency To Top Court

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Chanda Kochhar in her petition said her husband Deepak Kochhar’s arrest was “illegal”

New Delhi:

No coercive action will be taken against former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar, who is facing charges for alleged money laundering, the Enforcement Directorate told the Supreme Court today.

The investigators’ assurance came after Ms Kochhar filed a petition to free her arrested husband Deepak Kochhar, who is also facing money-laundering charges, on bail.

Ms Kochhar in her petition said her husband’s arrest was “illegal”.

The Enforcement Directorate or ED had filed a criminal case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act early last year against Ms Kochhar, her husband and Venugopal Dhoot of Videocon Group to investigate alleged irregularities and corrupt practices in sanctioning Rs 1,875 crore in loans by ICICI Bank.

Mr Kochhar was arrested this September.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the ED, gave the assurance that no action would be taken against the former CEO of one of the largest private lenders in the country.

The Supreme Court said her husband’s petition for bail will be heard in a trial court on November 23, and her petition will be taken up on November 27.

Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Ms Kochhar, said her pending bail petition in the Supreme Court may affect the other bail petition listed for Monday in the trial court.

The pending bail petition in the Supreme Court, however, will have no effect on the hearing by the trial court, the top court said today.

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In a separate matter, Ms Kochhar has appealed against an order by the Bombay High Court that dismissed her petition against her sacking as the managing director and chief executive of ICICI Bank.

The Enforcement Directorate is also probing at least two other instances of loans given by ICICI Bank during Ms Kochhar’s tenure to Gujarat-based pharmaceutical firm Sterling Biotech and to Bhushan Steel Group; both these are also being probed on alleged money laundering charges.

The Enforcement Directorate’s case is based on a complaint registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation, which is running an independent investigation; it too had named all three individuals and added three companies, including two under the Videocon name, owned by Mr Dhoot’s companies.

NuPower Renewables, a company controlled by Mr Kochhar, had also been named.

The CBI has alleged that Mr Dhoot invested in NuPower through another company – Supreme Energy – in a quid pro quo deal via loans cleared by ICICI after Ms Kochhar took over as CEO in May 2009.

In preliminary investigations, the CBI found six loans worth Rs 1,875 crore were sanctioned between June 2009 and October 2011, in alleged violation of established policies. These loans were declared non-performing assets in 2012, causing a loss of Rs 1,730 crore to the bank, the CBI further alleged.

In January this year, ICICI Bank filed a petition in the Bombay High Court seeking recovery of bonuses given to Ms Kochhar.

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