New Delhi: The controversy related to ICICI Bank, the largest private lender of India, is refusing to die as the government on Thursday indicated that inspection of the books of six companies linked to the row is at an advanced stage.
The corporate affairs ministry had ordered inspection of six companies, including NuPower Renewables, on April 23.
It was alleged that Videocon group pumped money into NuPower Renewables, a firm owned by Deepak Kochhar, husband of Chanda Kochhar. Amid the raging controversy, Chanda Kochhar stepped down as the bank’s managing director and chief executive officer in October.
It was alleged that former ICICI Bank chief and her family members were involved in a loan provided to Videocon Group on a quid pro quo basis.
Confirming the development, corporate affairs secretary Injeti Srinivas said, “It (inspection of the books) is at a very advanced stage. The inspection is being carried out by the regional director (western region) under section 206(5) of the Companies Act, 2013.”
“Regional directors have completed inquiries. They have taken depositions from whomever they want to take and I think they are preparing the report,” the corporate affairs secretary said.
Section 206 of the Companies Act provides powers to call for information inspect books and conduct inquiries. As per the section 206(5), the central government may, if it is satisfied that the circumstances so warrant, go for direct inspection of the books and papers of a company by an inspector appointed by it for the purpose.
ICICI Bank is the country’s largest private lender with total consolidated assets of Rs 11.24 lakh crore at March 31, 2018 and profit after tax (PAT) of Rs 6,777 crore for the year ended March 31, 2018.
The private bank currently has a network of 4,867 branches and 14,367 ATMs across India.
The bank’s goodwill and reputation came under the cloud in February, when the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) launched a preliminary enquiry into these allegations. Chanda Kochhar, however, denied allegations, following which the bank board expressed full support for its CEO and accepted her explanation that no ethical lines had been crossed in the loan ICICI Bank extended to Videocon, the promoter of which had business dealings with Kochhar’s husband.
The matter was later investigated into by various authorities including the income-tax department and the Securities Exchange Board of India (Sebi). In May, the bank also set up an internal probe headed by former Supreme Court judge BN Srikrishna against Kochhar after a second whistle-blower complaint made the same allegations.
In June, the bank announced Kochhar’s leave till the probe is completed and appointed Sandeep Bakhshi as chief operating officer and interim CEO.
The bank posted its first quarterly loss since listing in July and its August filing to the US markets regulator Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said the allegations against Kochhar could severely impact the bank’s ability to do business.