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Kochhar on annual leave, not forced one: ICICI Bank
 
(New Delhi, June 01, 2018):ICICI Bank CEO and MD Chanda Kochhar, who is facing an independent probe for her alleged involvement in a deal which benefited family members, has gone on planned annual leave and not on forced leave as has been reported in a section of media, the bank said today.

In a regulatory filing, ICICI Bank also said that it has not appointed any search committee to find a successor of Kochhar.

According to media reports, Kocchar was asked to go on leave pending an independent enquiry into her role in granting huge loan to Videocon group on quid pro quo basis.

"The ICICI Bank Board denies having asked Ms Chanda Kochhar to go on leave. She is on her annual leave which was planned in advance. Further, the Board denies that it has appointed any search committee to find her successor," a bank said.

Earlier this week, the bank board had decided to launch an enquiry to be headed by an "independent and credible person", to examine and enquire into an anonymous whistle blower complaint alleging that the bank MD & CEO had not adhered to code of conduct and acted in "conflict of interest" over a period of time.

"In keeping with the Whistle Blower Policy of the bank, board has mandated its audit committee to take all further actions in the matter to operationalise this decision -- including in particular, appointment of an independent and credible person as head of the enquiry, determining the terms of reference..." the bank had said in a regulatory filing dated May 30.

It is learnt that Kochhar has not been attending office from this week and is expected to join only after June 10.

The enquiry was ordered by the board, at its meeting on May 29, on a complaint by an anonymous whistle-blower against Kochhar.

There are allegations of involvement of Kochhar and her family members in a loan provided to Videocon group on a quid pro quo basis.

It was alleged that Videocon Group pumped money into NuPower Renewables, a firm owned by Deepak Kochhar, husband of Chanda Kochhar.

Market regulator Sebi has served a notice on Kochhar on dealings of the bank with Videocon Group and Nupower.

Besides, there are allegations that NuPower got investments of Rs 325 crore from Mauritius-based Firstland Holdings, a company owned by Nishant Kanodia, son-in-law of Essar Group co-founder Ravi Ruia.

The investments from Ruia's son-in-law's firm into NuPower started in December 2010. Incidentally, the same month ICICI Bank was lead banker in a consortium of Indian banks that extended a USD 530 million loan to Essar Steel Minnesota LLC on December 29, 2010. This loan was later classified as NPA.

The Reserve Bank in its 2016 investigation in the matter had raised questions over the ownership of the Mauritius-based entity, First Land Holding, which had invested Rs 325 crore in NuPower.

Also, there was no clarity over the alleged Rs 64-crore loan (unsecured fully convertible debentures) given to NuPower by Supreme Energy, which was 99.99 per cent owned by Videocon chief Venugopal Dhoot at that time.

While Chanda Kochhar sat on the credit committee that approved the loan to Videocon, there are allegations of conflict of interest in her husband's brother, Singapore-based Rajiv Kochhar, performing debt-restructuring work on errant corporate borrowers from ICICI, including Videocon.

The stock of the bank today closed 1.37 per cent higher at Rs 289.50 on BSE.


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