New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation officer investigating the case against former ICICI Bank boss Chanda Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar and Videocon chief Venugopal Dhoot was transferred a day after he signed the first information report.
Sudhanshu Dhar Mishra, who worked in the New Delhi unit of the agency’s bank security and frauds cell, registered the complaint in the ICICI-Videocon loan controversy case on January 22.
According to a CBI order, Mishra was transferred and replaced with another officer, Biswajit Das, the very next day on January 23. The searches and raids that were conducted at Videocon’s offices on January 24, which is when the news broke, were conducted under the supervision of Das.
The investigation into whether Deepak Kochhar’s business dealings with Venugopal Dhoot affected ICICI Bank’s decision to sanction loans to the Videocon Group broke out last year, after a whistleblower-investor’s complaints made its way into the mainstream media.
The decision to convert the preliminary enquiry in the matter into an FIR took nearly a year – under usual circumstances, the agency’s initial inquiries are usually decided within a 90-day deadline.
In addition to naming the Kochhars and Dhoot, the FIR also notably pointed out that, if required, the investigation may also look into the role that other top officials at ICICI bank, including current CEO Sandeep Bakshi, played on committees that sanctioned loans to Videocon.
Two days after Mishra was shunted out, the FIR also drew sharp criticism from a strange source. On Friday, finance minister Arun Jaitley lashed out the CBI for engaging in what he called “investigative adventurism.
“There is a fundamental difference between investigative adventurism and professional investigation,” Jaitley wrote in a Facebook post.
“Sitting thousands of kilometres 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,” he added.
Jaitley’s remarks, which were retweeted by cabinet colleagues Piyush Goyal and Nirmala Sitharaman, have been criticised by senior lawyers and the Opposition, who view it as a government attempt at curtailing the autonomy of the investigative agency.
In remarks made to The Wire, senior advocate Prashant Bhushan said that it was “not quite proper for the Union finance minister to comment on a CBI case”.