ICICI case: BBB member’s Avista stint under scanner

Finmin to look at Pradeep Kumar’s role as advisor in Rajiv Kochhar firm

New Delhi : The finance ministry is looking at the professional assistance provided by newly-appointed Banks Board Bureau (BBB) member P Pradeep Kumar during his stint at Avista Advisory Group, which is caught in the controversy involving ICICI Bank and Videocon Group, sources said.

Rajiv Kochhar, brother-in-law of ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar, is the founder of Singapore-based Avista Advisory.

Avista Advisory was involved in restructuring of loans of some ICICI Bank borrowers, which in turn has raised concerns over propriety and conflict of interest against the backdrop of Videocon matter.

Till recently, Pradeep Kumar, a former Managing Director of State Bank of India (SBI), was an advisor to Avista Advisory.

Sources said the Department of Financial Services (DFS) is examining the post retirement professional assistance provided by Kumar during his stint at Avista Advisory.

Various aspects, such as whether Kumar discharged his duties at Avista only in an advisory role or whether he was also part of the executive decision-making process, would be looked into, they added.

After completing the detailed assessment, DFS, under the Finance Ministry, would hand over the report to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) for its consideration, sources said.

Last week, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), quizzed Rajiv at multiple occasion, which is probing the ICICI Bank-Videocon loan controversy.

The agency has registered a preliminary probe, naming Videocon Group promoter Venugopal Dhoot, Rajiv’s brother Deepak and others, to determine alleged wrongdoing in the sanctioning of a Rs 3,250 crore ICICI loan to the Videocon Group.

Among the companies that are said to have hired services of Avista include Videocon, GTL Infrastructure and Suzlon for restructuring of debt.

ICICI Bank was a lender to all these entities.

Jaypee Group spokesperson confirmed hiring Avista for debt restructuring and said that a fee in line with market practice was paid.

“We wish to state that Avista Advisory was only involved in restructuring of FCCBs of Jaiprakash Associates Ltd and Jaiprakash Power Ventures Ltd but it was never involved in any loan syndication for any Jaypee Group company.

“Avista has been paid a fee of 0.75 per cent to 1 per cent of the restructured FCCBs, which is as per market standards. Thus the reports linking Jaypee Group’s dealing with ICICI Bank via Avista are completely baseless,” the spokesperson had said.

Jaiprakash Associates, the flagship firm of the Jaypee Group, has restructured foreign currency convertible bonds (FCCBs) worth about $110 million while Jaiprakash Power venture got its debt recast of about $225 million.

UCO Bank shares hit 12-year low on fraud

Mumbai : State-run UCO Bank’s shares plummeted to almost 12-year low on the bourses on Monday after CBI registered a case against its former chairman for cheating the lender.

During the day’s trade, shares of the Kolkata-based lender on the BSE slipped by 14.32 per cent to hit a new 52-week low of Rs 19.15 per share — the lowest level since September 2006.

Shares of the state-run bank closed at Rs 20.90 per scrip — down 6.49 per cent — from its previous session’s close. On the NSE, the bank’s shares hit the lowest since August 2006. It nosedived by 17.98 per cent to a fresh 52-week low of Rs 18.25 per share. On a closing basis, the shares declined by 6.29 per cent and closed at Rs 20.85 per scrip.

The state-run lender filed a complaint with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on April 11, 2018, against Era Infra Engineering Ltd in view of irregularities reported in their accounts with the bank. “With regard to material impact, we inform that as on March 31, 2018, the Era Infra Engineering has a total exposure of Rs 757.53 crore in our bank. The account was categorised as non-performing asset since July 1, 2013 onwards,” the UCO Bank said on Monday.

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