ICICI-Videocon loan row: Kochhars’ and Venugopal Dhoot’s links date back to early 2000s, says report

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is probing the ICICI Bank-Videocon loan row, might also examine a set of myriad family connections linked to a little known company called Credential Finance Ltd, which counted the Videocon Group and seven Kochhar family members as its shareholders.

The agency has registered a preliminary probe into the row, naming ICICI Bank boss Chanda Kochhar’s husband Deepak Kochhar, Videocon Group promoter Venugopal Dhoot and others. But the CBI may want to expand that probe to include Chanda, Deepak’s brother Rajiv and four other Kochhar family members, as it seeks to determine alleged wrongdoing in the sanctioning of a Rs 3,250 crore ICICI loan to the Videocon Group.

The controversy points to two business deals: Dhoot floated an equal joint venture with Deepak– NuPower Renewables Pvt. Ltd. — and secured loans from ICICI Bank. A few months after the loans were sanctioned, Dhoot transferred ownership to Deepak and exited the clean power venture.

The probe could benefit from an examination of records that date back to the early 1990s – Deepak and Rajiv reportedly parted ways in the early 2000s after jointly running Credential Finance, a firm they founded in the 1990s.

Credential Finance counted Videocon Group companies and seven members of the Kochhar family as its shareholders, according to a report in the Mint, which cited regulatory filings.

Chanda, Deepak, Rajiv and four other Kochhar family members together held a two percent stake in Credential Finance in 2001. Videocon International Ltd held 17.74 percent and its associate firm Joy Holdings held a 0.8 percent stake. Mahesh Chandra Punglia, a director of NuPower Renewables and a close aide of Dhoot, held a 0.8 percent stake, the report added.

Credential Finance, initially set up as Bloom Field Builders and Construction Co Ltd, last traded on the BSE on 26 December 2001, according to a Moneylife report.

A preliminary probe is the first step by the CBI to gather information about allegations. If the agency is convinced that there exists prima facie material in the matter, it may register a regular case against the accused.