Whistleblower in ICICI Bank-Videocon case calls for check on lending practices across banks

Arvind Gupta, the whistleblower in the ICICI Bank-Videocon Group controversy, wants the government and regulators to check on the lending practices of the banking system.

Gupta, who was the first to highlight the issue, with a October 2016 blog titled 「Banking Sector NPAs from mighty Corporate Cons」, told Moneycontrol that he has raised more than 12 cases in the past 'which have gone unnoticed by the government'.

Gupta is founder and trustee of Indian Investors Protection Council, and as his blog profile suggests, he has a Ph.D in Public Sector Economics.

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In the  blog, he cited conflict of interest in loans given by ICICI Bank to Videocon Group. As per information from Registrar of Companies, he states that Videocon Group’s promoter Venugopal Dhoot has connection with NuPower Renewables, owned by Deepak Kochhar, husband of the bank’s CEO Chanda Kochhar.

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「Not just ICICI Bank, but other banks must also undergo a scrutiny whether this is just a one-off case or there is a pattern in the corporate restructuring or lending (practices) to the corporate houses who are going down the drain,」 said Gupta, a shareholder of both ICICI Bank and Videocon Industries.

He had sent letters to the Prime Minister’s Office, Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the Central Vigilance Commission, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Serious Fraud Investigation Office, and the Finance Minister’s office.

「No regulators or agencies, not even the government has responded...Neither ICICI Bank nor Videocon Group have contacted or asked questions yet.

Even as ICICI Bank's Board and Chairman MK Sharma have given a clean chit to Chanda Kochhar and the media reports driving entire focus on the issues, the Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax Department have turned on their lens towards the case and are in the process of collection of relevant files and papers from the RBI and SEBI.

Further, the CBI may also call Chanda Kochhar for questioning related to the fury over the Rs 3,250-crore loans given the Videocon Group.

According to Gupta, it is the right and responsibility of every corporate investor to flag off these issues. "All the information is public, one must probe and seek out the real truth behind these wrong practices of corporate governance…There are many questions that need to be answered."

He also mentioned that round-tripping of funds by Indian companies and over-invoicing is one of the oldest practices in the corporate space.

Gupta says rising corporate frauds is a serious threat to Indian corporate democracy and that just probes are required to bring back faith in the banking system, which has public money.

「Over the past, as a shareholder, I have raised over a dozen corporate matters which have gone unheard and lost. I will continue to do my diligence as a shareholder,」 says Gupta, who claims to be now studying one more big corporate case.