Dr. Arvind Gupta has emerged as the whistleblower in the alleged ICICI loan fraud that transpired under the leadership of Chanda Kochhar. Once considered an icon, former ICICI CEO and MD Chanda along with her husband Deepak and Videocon Group CEO Venugopal Dhoot are in CBI custody for the alleged fraud worth over Rs 3,000 crore. The Kochhar couple has been arrested for sanctioning thousands of crores in loan to the Videocon group which allegedly benefited all the involved parties.
#KochharWhistleblower | It's India Inc's biggest scandal, with once-championed names falling from grace. With the Kochhars and Venugopal Dhoot in CBI custody, Arnab is #LIVE here - https://t.co/HbKDYgaNDs pic.twitter.com/dXq5YT744c— Republic (@republic) December 28, 2022
As the matter continues to gain traction, Dr. Gupta, who has been an investor in both ICICI and Videocon, appeared in The Debate with Republic’s Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami and revealed how the events transpired and coalesced into a fraud.
An advocate of transparency and accountability relating to corporate governance for the last thirty years, Dr Gupta who exposed the scam in 2016, said that the issues around Videocon first began in 1992. "I know their misdeeds of managing the affairs in the corporate and government lobby ever since then. They have duped many state governments, financial corporations, and financial institutions while rising up to become the number one electronic company in the country", Dr. Gupta told Arnab.
Chanda Kochar is said to have sanctioned a loan of Rs 3,250 crore to Videocon group in 2012, out of which Rs 2,810 crore of outstanding loan turned into Non-performing asset (NPA) causing heavy loss to ICICI Bank. It was also alleged that soon after the sanctioning of the loan, Dhoot invested crores in NuPower renewables headed by Deepak Kochhar, Chanda's husband.
Dr. Gupta revealed that on December 18, 2008, when the families of Videocon promoters and of Chanda Kochhar formed a 50-50 venture and named it NuPower Renewables Limited. He noted that 2008 was the year when the world witnessed a financial crisis but the Dhoots along with the Kochhars "were trying to build an empire".
"Deepak Kochhar obviously was an ambitious person so he launched his NuPower venture and today, under that he has three subsidiaries which are operating", Dr. Gupta revealed. "On one hand you find they were giving sweet deals to the group to avoid that they don't default on bankruptcy but they did eventually because they were trying to siphon the fund", he said. Dr. Gupta, citing officially published reports, said that there was a flow of funds into NuPower both from India and abroad.
The investor said that the expose is just the tip of the iceberg as "there are many other groups which were funded by the ICICI chief and the management". He also said that the number of companies that might have gone bankrupt and the NPAs are also not known yet. When asked about the possibility of Chanda Kochhar being backed by others in sanctioning the loans, Dr. Gupta cited the official press release by the ICICI Bank which it admitted that she could not have sanctioned the loans without the backing of the board members.
"There were other people, those who have to be in the same line of thinking to approve the funding...and lakhs of crores were given to several companies in this quid pro quo business", he said. "In the FIR filed by the CBI, even they have in their report very categorically said that there were top senior officials in the bank who have played a role in sanctioning the loans", Dr. Gupta further stated. He even said that there might have been "godfathers and godmothers of Chanda Kochhar" belonging to the private and public sector, as was mentioned in the CBI remand copy.