April 20, 2024


Delighting finance buffs

CBI books Videocon’s Venugopal Dhoot for cheating banks of millions

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed an FIR against Videocon’s Chief Managing Director Venugopal Dhoot for defrauding a consortium of banks led by the State Bank of India. Dhoot is already being probed by the CBI in connection with defrauding ICICI Bank allegedly with the help of former CEO of ICICI Bank Chanda Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar.

The fresh FIR against Venugopal Dhoot has been lodged after the federal probe agency conducted a preliminary inquiry against unknown officials of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, ONGC Videsh, Oil India Limited, Bharat Petro Resources Ltd (a subsidiary of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited) and the consortium of banks (SBI, IDBI and ICICI Bank Ltd).

The inquiry also included directors and promoters of Videocon Mozambique Rovuma Limited (VMRL), a subsidiary of Videocon Hydrocarbons Holding Limited (VHHL) registered in the Cayman Islands.

“Inquiry revealed that the firms associated with Videocon colluded with the consortium of banks for undue gains causing loss to the banks,” said a CBI source.

According to the probe report, the ONGC Videsh Limited and Oil India Limited had acquired the Mozambique asset of Videocon in January 2014 for USD 2519 million. Venugopal Dhoot is the Chairman and Managing Director of M/S Videocon Industries Limited and Videocon Hydrocarbon Holding Limited which deals with Oil and Gas Business.

In April, 2012, the consortium of banks, led by State Bank of India, sanctioned the Standby Letter of Credit (SBLC) facility of USD 2773.60 million to Videocon Hydrocarbons Holding Ltd (VHHL) for appraisal and development of their overseas oil and gas asset in Mozambique, Brazil and Indonesia and other funding requirements in relation to the oil and gas assets and for refinancing the existing facilities.

The standby letter of credit facility of USD 1103 million was refinanced, which included outstanding of USD 400 million of Standard Chartered Bank (SCB), London.

“The first charge on VIL’s oil and gas asset was a part of SCB’s security,” the FIR said.

However, in February 2013, VIL told the consortium that SCB loan has increased to USD 530 million and requested to pay it and take over charge of oil and gas assets. The amount was approved by the consortium of banks without any verification or inquiry, which is not the usual practice.

After the payment, the consortium should have taken the charge on the gas and oil assets of VIL and the loan account of SCB should have been closed by VHHL. But neither the consortium created a charge on the oil and gas assets nor it closed the loan account with SCB, revealed the CBI inquiry.

Videocon, according to the CBI, also never informed the consortium that it continued to avail loan from SCB and the lenders also did not ask for NoC from SCB about the closure.

The consortium also agreed to clear the outstanding dues towards SCB, subject to a cap of USD 650 million but ended up paying USD 704.45 million to SCB, London from sale proceeds in connivance with bank officers, said the CBI.

The agency has alleged that VIL diverted funds of SCB, London only spending USD 374 million, USD 554.82 million and USD 25.25 million on its assets in Mozambique, Indonesia and Brazil, respectively, as against the facility of USD 1616 million availed by VHHL.

“The facts and circumstance prima facie show that unknown officers of lender banks, led by SBI, in conspiracy with Venugopal Dhoot, CMD of Videocon Industries Limited allowed VHHL to continue to the avail the facility from SCB, London with dishonest intention by not creating a charge on Mozambique asset and thereby caused wrongful gain to Videocon and wrongful loss to Indian PSU banks,” reads the FIR.

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