THE KOCHHAR SAGA TWISTS

India Today - - INSIDE - By M.G. Arun

Re­port­edly on the verge of be­ing dropped, the in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the con­duct of Chanda Kochhar, for­mer ICICI Bank man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, took a sharp turn on Jan­uary 25 as the Cen­tral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (CBI) booked her for “dis­hon­estly sanc­tion­ing loans to the Videocon group”. Raids were con­ducted on Videocon’s head­quar­ters in Mum­bai and an of­fice in Au­rangabad, while there were searches at the of­fices of NuPower Re­new­ables, an al­ter­na­tive en­ergy com­pany co­founded by Venu­gopal Dhoot, chair­man of Videocon, and Chanda’s hus­band Deepak. The CBI also named a num­ber of se­nior bankers, ei­ther cur­rently or for­merly as­so­ci­ated with ICICI Bank, in its FIR, prompt­ing a sharp re­sponse from Arun Jait­ley, the Union fi­nance min­is­ter who is now min­is­ter with­out port­fo­lio as he con­va­lesces in the US. Jait­ley ac­cused the CBI, the coun­try’s pre­mier in­ves­ti­gat­ing agency, of “ad­ven­tur­ism”.

His crit­i­cism that the CBI casts its net too widely and, as a re­sult, of­ten fails to se­cure con­vic­tions, re­ceived nods of sym­pa­thy from politi­cians and com­men­ta­tors across party and ide­o­log­i­cal lines, though some eye­brows were raised at the strength and tenor of Jait­ ley’s in­ter­ven­tion. He ac­cused of­fi­cers of “mega­lo­ma­nia” in a blog post, es­sen­tially con­demned the CBI as un­pro­fes­sional, and asked if its in­ves­ti­ga­tion was “a jour­ney to nowhere (or ev­ery­where)”. While agree­ing with the thrust of his ar­gu­ment, crit­ics such as for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter P. Chi­dambaram, also un­der the CBI scanner along­side son Karti, won­dered why Jait­ley waited un­til (in the lat­ter’s words) “the who’s who of the bank­ing in­dus­try” was im­pli­cated be­fore ar­tic­u­lat­ing doubts about the stan­dard func­tion­ing of the CBI.

On the CBI’s part, it main­tains it is still only ask­ing ques­tions of some

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