Plea agreement means settlement of case without main hearing when the defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange.
Mumbai: Under the scanner of investigative agencies over allegations of quid pro quo, ICICI Bank is looking to file a consent plea with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to end the ongoing probe against CEO and managing director Chanda Kochhar in the Videocon loan case, according to a news report citing unnamed sources.
ICICI Bank refused to comment. A plea agreement means settlement of case without main hearing when the defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser charge or for a more lenient sentence and/or for dismissal of certain related charges.
While the bank in the case will conduct an independent probe, sources suggested the board doesn’t want to drag the case and is evaluating options to file a consent plea, the report said.
Sebi had issued a show cause notice to Chanda Kochhar for alleged violation of disclosure requirements under securities law in this case.
According to Sebi, Kochhar didn’t adhere to the code of conduct, which required the disclosure of any conflict of interest in the case involving Videocon Group and NuPower Renewables, a firm owned by her husband Deepak Kochhar.
A few days ago, ICICI Bank denied a news report claiming that Kochhar was sent on an indefinite leave and clarified that the bank chief had gone on a planned annual leave.
Last month, ICICI Bank had said it would institute an independent enquiry into the allegations raised by an anonymous whistle blower against Kochhar. ICICI Bank in a regulatory filing had said the enquiry would be conducted by an “independent and credible person” appointed by the bank.
A whistleblower by the name Arvind Gupta has again floated allegations against Kochhar for allegedly bestowing undue favours on Essar Group’s Ruia brother for ‘round-tripping’ investments into her husband Deepak Kochhar’s NuPower Group. All parties named in the whistleblower’s second letter to PM have denied allegations as baseless and malicious.
The private lender had given Rs 3,250 crore loan to Videocon whose chairman Venugopal Dhoot co-founded a separate company, NuPower Renewables, with Deepak Kochhar. There was some possible quid pro quo in the grant of loans, the 2016 letter by the whistle blower had alleged. The loans are now non-performing asset on the books of banks.
ICICI Bank has, however, backed its chief, calling the rumours “malicious and unfounded”.
On March 28, the bank’s board had issued a statement that it didn’t find anything wrong with the way Kochhar conducted herself. The board had said in 2012, a consortium of over 20 banks and financial institutions sanctioned facilities to Videocon group (Videocon Industries and 12 of its subsidiaries as co-obligors) for a debt consolidation scheme and for the group’s oil and gas capital expenditure programme aggregating approximately Rs 40,000 crore.
The bank’s current exposure to Videocon group is part of this syndicated consortium arrangement and “it was not the lead bank for this consortium and the bank only sanctioned its share of facilities aggregating approximately Rs 3,250 crore, which was less than 10 per cent of total consortium facility in April 2012.”
According to a recent business daily report, ICICI Bank chairman MK Sharma had conducted a probe but found no problems with the bank’s decision to fund the Videocon Group.