Business Economy

ED conducts searches against Videocon group, promoters in money-laundering case

The ED conducted searches against the promoters of the Videocon group in Mumbai on Friday as part of a money-laundering probe linked to the alleged siphoning of bank loan funds in connection with the financing of the oil and gas assets of the business house in Mozambique, official sources said.

They said the searches were being conducted at multiple premises of the group and its promoters.

The criminal case of the central investigative agency, filed under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), is based on a CBI FIR registered last year on a complaint received from the petroleum and oil ministry.

The case pertains to the alleged diversion of bank loan funds and the agency is probing if the money was laundered, the sources said.

The CBI complaint said in 2008, Videocon Hydrocarbons Holding Limited (VHHL), a subsidiary of the Videocon Industries Limited (VIL), acquired 10 per cent “participating interest” in the Oil and Gas Block in the Rovuma Area 1 block, Mozambique from the US-based Anadarko.

The asset in the African country was later acquired by ONGC Videsh Limited and Oil India Limited in January 2014 for USD 2,519 million, the CBI had said.

In April 2012, a consortium of banks, led by the State Bank of India and also comprising the ICICI Bank and the IDBI Bank, sanctioned a Standby Letter of Credit (SBLC) facility of USD 2,773.

60 million to VHHL for an appraisal and development of their overseas oil and gas assets in Mozambique, Brazil and Indonesia, and other funding requirements in relation to the refinancing of the existing facility.

The SBLC facility of USD 1,103 million was re-financed, which included an outstanding of USD 400 million to the Standard Chartered Bank (SCB), London.

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

The CBI found that VIL allegedly 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 1,616 million availed by VHHL.

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

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has been investigating Dhoot, former ICICI Bank CEO and MD Chanda Kochhar and her husband Deepak Kochhar under the PMLA for the last few years and has also filed a charge sheet against them.

The case against the Kochhars, Dhoot and their business entities is linked to the alleged “illegal sanctioning of loans amounting to Rs 1,875 crore to the Videocon Group of Companies”.

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