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CBI books Videocon’s Venugopal Dhoot for causing losses to banks

Venugopal Dhoot

Venugopal Dhoot  

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has booked Venugopal Dhoot, chairman-cum-managing director (CMD) of Videocon Industries Limited (VIL), and unknown officials of a consortium led by the State Bank of India (SBI), for alleged undue pecuniary gains to VIL.

The agency had last year initiated a preliminary enquiry against unknown officials of ONGC Videsh Limited, Oil India Limited, Bharat Petro Resources Limited (a subsidiary of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited), and the consortium of banks (SBI, IDBI Bank and ICICI Bank).

It was based on a complaint that the suspects colluded with the directors and promoters of Videocon Mozambique Rovuma 1 Limited (VMRL), a subsidiary of Videocon Hydrocarbon Holdings Limited (VHHL) that was registered in Cayman Islands, with an intent to cause undue gains to VIL.

According to the FIR, the CBI found that in 2008, VHHL — a wholly-owned step down subsidiary of VIL — acquired 10% participating interest in Rovuma’s oil and gas block in Mozambique from U.S.-based Anadarko. VHHL also had oil and gas assets in Indonesia and Brazil.

ONGC Videsh Limited and Oil India Limited acquired the Mozambique asset in January 2014 for $2,519 million.

Mr. Dhoot was the CMD of VIL and VHHL. In April 2012, the consortium sanctioned Standby Letter of Credit Facility of $2,773.60 million to VHHL for appraisal and development of the overseas oil and gas assets, funding requirements, and for refinancing the existing facilities.

The facility of $1,103 million was refinanced, which included an outstanding of $400 million towards London-based Standard Chartered Bank (SCB). The first charge on VIL’s oil and gas assets was a part of SCB’s security

In February 2013, VIL informed the consortium that the SCB loan had increased to $530 million and requested that the outstanding amount be cleared and the charge of assets be taken over. However, as alleged, the consortium, without any verification, paid the amount to SCB.

After payment, the charge of assets had to be taken over. However, the consortium officials, in alleged connivance with VIL, did not do so. The company continued to get the facility from SCB, backed by the Mozambique-based assets. The company did not inform the lenders about it, nor did they ask for any no-objection certificate (NOC).

The consortium never took the charge of Mozambique assets, while that of assets in Indonesia and Brazil was taken over from SCB only in November 2013, alleges the CBI. ONGC Videsh Limited and Oil India Limited required the NOCs from lenders before paying for the Mozambique assets.

In November 2013, VIL requested the banks to pay the outstanding due to SCB from the sale proceeds in Mozambique. The officials did not raise any objection to the fact that the dues had already been cleared in February 2013. Rather, they agreed that the amount should not exceed $650 million, as alleged.

However, a higher amount of $705.45 million was allegedly paid to SCB from Mozambique-based sale proceeds.

VIL allegedly used the funds received from SCB for other purposes or diverted money to some other accounts. Till December 2013, it had spent only $374 million, $554.83 million and $25.25 million towards the Mozambique, Indonesia and Brazil assets, respectively, against which VHHL got the facility of $1,616 million.

In January 2019, the CBI had booked Mr. Dhoot along with former ICICI Bank MD Chanda Kochhar and others, in connection with the sanction of about ₹1,730 crore in loans allegedly in violation of rules.

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Printable version | Jul 12, 2020 11:05:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/cbi-books-videocons-venugopal-dhoot-for-causing-losses-to-banks/article31901878.ece

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