ICICI case gets curiouser

   By Ravi Shanker Kapoor ,  28-Jan-2019
ICICI case gets curiouser

One wonders what is happening. Is there anybody in the quarters that matter even bothered about what this botched-up case does to India’s image as an on-the-move economy?

The powers that be seem determined to keep the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the news. A few days ago, the premier agency had filed a criminal case against the former ICICI chief executive officer Chanda Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar, and Videocon Group managing director Venugopal Dhoot. This was questioned by Minister without portfolio Arun Jaitley, who is convalescing in the US. And on Sunday, the CBI officer concerned, Superintendent of Police Sudhanshu Dhar Mishra, was transferred to Ranchi. What on earth is happening?

On January 24, the CBI agency had searched the Mumbai offices of Videocon and Deepak Kochhar-promoted Nupower Renewables and Supreme Powers. The charge was that Chanda Kochhar had cleared six loans amounting to Rs 1,875 crore for the Videocon Group. As quid pro quo, it has been alleged, Dhoot invested in Deepak Kochhar’s firms.

The first information report or FIR, registered by the CBI’s Bank Securities and Fraud Cell, was reportedly filed on the basis of a complaint submitted by CBI inspector D.J. Bajpai after a year-long preliminary enquiry (PE). The CBI also wants the roles of current ICICI Bank CEO Sandeep Bakshi and former directors and senior executives to be probed. Such worthies as banking doyen and Chairman of New Development Bank K.V. Kamath, Goldman Sachs India chairman Sonjoy Chatterjee, Standard Chartered Bank CEO Zarin Daruwala, and Tata Capital head Rajiv Sabharwal may be investigated.

It has been alleged that the government in power, of the Bharatiya Janata Party or the Congress, always misuses the CBI to serve its own purposes. Against this backdrop, any CBI raid or case has come to be seen as motivated.

Things got curiouser with Jaitley’s January 25 blog, suggestively titled ‘Investigative Adventurism Vs. Professional Investigation.’ He wrote, “Sitting thousands of kilometers away, when I read the list of potential targets in the ICICI case, the thought that crossed my mind was again the same: Instead of focusing primarily on the target, is a journey to nowhere (or everywhere) being undertaken? If we include the entire who’s who of the Banking Industry—with or without evidence—what cause are we serving or actually hurting.”

And now, the investigating officer has been removed from the job.

One wonders what is happening. Is there anybody in the quarters that matter even bothered about what this botched-up case does to India’s image as an on-the-move economy? Is this how our political masters attract investors?