The decision to ask Kochhar to go on leave has been taken on the advice of a majority of the seven independent directors on the bank’s board, the person said. The enquiry, likely to be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, will begin next week and will be completed in two months, he added.
“A new whistle blower complaint came 15-20 days back. It came to our notice as well. The bank’s board and top management first met and then the independent directors decided to meet separately. So the independent directors met on 29 May. The charges made against the bank and its CEO are quite harsh and the independent directors thought that such allegations cannot be dealt with internally,” the person said on condition of anonymity.
In an exchange filing on Friday, ICICI Bank said that the board has not asked Kochhar to go on leave. “She is on her annual leave which was planned in advance,” the exchange filing said.
“After the previous whistleblower complaint in 2015-16, the board had conducted an internal probe but we can see that it did not help much. Shareholders, depositors, employees and everyone associated are still in doubts and raising various questions despite that probe. Hence, this time the independent directors decided to tell the bank to conduct an independent enquiry,” the person said.
Arvind Gupta, the shareholder activist who raised serious concerns about questionable deals between Videocon Group and NuPower Renewables Ltd, a company owned by Deepak Kochhar, husband of ICICI Bank Managing Director and CEO Chanda Kochhar, has levelled fresh allegations against the husband-wife duo.
In a letter dated 11 May 2018, dispatched to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, several regulators and ministries, Gupta has said NuPower received round-tripped investments of Rs 453 crore from Essar Group, routed through an organisation called Matix Group and its holding entity Firstland Holdings Limited, both based in Mauritius. These firms are owned by Nishant Kanodia, husband of Smiti Ruia, who is the daughter of Essar Group vice-chairman Ravi Ruia.