ICICI-Videocon loan case: Deepak Kochhar may be probed for benami assets

New Delhi: Nothing concrete has been found to establish tax evasion against Deepak Kochhar’s NuPower Renewables in the income-tax (I-T) department’s preliminary probe into the ICICI Bank-Videocon loan case.

However, tax sleuths are thinking of investigating some of his properties under the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act.

In April last year, the tax authorities had questioned former ICICI Bank chief executive officer Chanda Koch­har’s husband, Deepak Koc­hhar, over a Rs 405 crore investment by Singapore-based Accion Diversified Strategies Fund (ADSF) thro­ugh its Mauritius subsidiary DH Renewables Holding.

“The transactions have been carried out in the guise of loans and other business transactions and hence prima facie no incriminating tax evasion angle has been identified,” said an official in the know, adding that the probe findings did indicate money laundering and possibilities of round tripping, he added.

Source said the enquiry report had been shared with the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is probing the violation of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

The I-T department had summoned Deepak Kochhar on April 10 last year and sought details on ADSF’s two Mauritius-based special purpose vehicles (SPVs), Firstland Holdings and DH Renewables, which had invested in NuPower.

Tax sleuths asked him to explain the source of funds NuPower had received from these two entities.

The high premium paid to one of the SPVs raised suspicion. Between 2014 and 2016, DH Renewables paid a premium of Rs 1,161 apiece against a face value of Rs 10 to buy compulsory convertible cumulative preferential shares (CCPS) worth more than Rs 405 crore.

Based on the information, the I-T department also sent a letter to its counterparts in Singapore and Mauritius. The I-T department had stated that such a modus operandi of infusing funds at a high premium could be an organised manipulative practice.

In the same case, Videocon Industries Chairman Venugopal Dhoot and Matix group Vice-Chairman Nishant Kanodia had been quizzed for their related offshore transactions. However, it could not be ascertained whether the department has found any wrong-doing on their part.

The tax department is said to have sought transcripts of communication between ADSF and NuPower and agreements between the two before or after such transfers of funds, the share valuation report for investment in NuPower, along with the reason for making an investment at a premium, and ADSF’s board resolution approving investment to be made in the wind energy firm.

The department has sought information regarding ADSF’s activities, its various financial credentials such as the annual report, tax returns, balance sheet, profit and loss account, promoters, beneficiary shareholders since the company’s incorporation, and the change in shareholding pattern to date.

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