ICICI-Videocon case: NuPower-Matrix Group deal on ED’s focus (IANS Exclusive)

New Delhi, March 5 : The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has extended its probe to find out if there was an illegal fund trail between Mauritius-based Firstland Holdings and NuPower Renewables Pvt Ltd owned by Deepak Kochhar, husband of former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar, in a multi-crore money laundering case.

The case is related to the alleged irregularities and corrupt practices in the sanction of a Rs 1,875 crore loan disbursed by ICICI bank to the Videocon Group during 2009 and 2011.

The ED got clues about an illegal transaction running to crores of rupees routed through Firstland to NuPower, an official requesting anonymity told IANS.

Firstland is owned by Nishkant Kanodia, the chairman of Matrix Group and son-in-law of Essar Group co-founder Ravi Ruia.

The ED learnt about the suspected transactions when Kanodia was questioned on Sunday and Monday.

The questioning of Chanda Kochhar, her husband and Videocon Group MD Venugopal Dhoot during the last five days in Mumbai have also given leads to the agency regarding these transactions.

"There is money transaction in crores (of rupees) to NuPower from different companies owned by Dhoot and Kanodia's Firstland.

But the transaction was done through a web of companies. We have to establish the link," said the official.

The ED has learnt that NuPower got investments of Rs 3,250 crore from Firstland and that the process started in December 2010.

The agency wants to seek judicial assistance through Letters Rogatory (LR) from its foreign counterparts in Mauritius and Singapore, the official said.

LR is a formal request from a court to a foreign court for judicial assistance.

The agency has also found links during the timings of the investments in NuPower, transaction by Firstland and loan disbursement to Videocon Group by ICICI Bank.

"The investment and the loan disbursal happened in the same year."

In connection with this transaction, the ED is learnt to have cross-questioned Kanodia and Mahesh Chandra Punglia.

Pungali is close to the Kochhar family and is also the Videocon Group MD.

In light of similarities observed in transactions into the bank account of NuPower, the ED has decided to expand the scope of its investigation and examine other six high-value loans worth Rs 1,875 sanctioned by the ICICI bank to six Videocon Group firms between 2009 and 2011 during the time Chanda Kochhar was at the lender's helm.

Chanda Kochhar took charge of ICICI Bank as Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director on May 1, 2009.

After she joined ICICI, the loan amounts disbursed to six Videocon Group companies in breach of rules and policy by the sanctioning committee, said the official.

The loans include Rs 300 crore to Videocon International Electronics Ltd (VIEL), Rs 175 crore to Millennium Appliances India Ltd, Rs 240 crore to Sky Appliances Ltd, Rs 110 crore to Techno Electronics Ltd, Rs 300 crore to Applicomp India Ltd and Rs 750 crore to Videocon Industries Ltd (VIL).

The official said the ED was also trying to establish Deepak Kochhar's probable links with some Essar group companies which in December 2010 got a (Dollar) 530-million loan by a consortium of Indian banks led by ICICI.

This loan was later classified as non-performing asset (NPA).

(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at rajnish.s@ians.in)



Source: IANS