Under her leadership, ICICI Bank’s NPAs grew by a whopping 1500 per cent.
The volume of non-performing assets (NPA) of ICICI Bank ballooned by nearly 1500 per cent to ₹34,000 crores during the 12-year-long leadership of celebrity-turned-disgraced banker Chanda Kochhar, according to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data.
Bad loans disbursed by the bank grew by 249.4 per cent since she was bestowed the Padma award in April 2011, the data, furnished by the RBI in response to an RTI query revealed.
One of the largest private lenders in India, ICICI Bank’s NPAs started growing by a significant proportion in 2007, the year she was elevated to the post of chief financial officer (CFO) and joint managing director.
ICICI Bank’s NPAs, a major headache for successive governments, rose by more than ₹32,080 crores or 1443 per cent between 2007 and 2018 – when she stepped down as the chief executive officer (CEO) and MD in face of mounting pressure over allegations of irregularities and violation of RBI norms in loan sanctions to Videocon Group.
On Friday, she was arrested along with her husband Deepak Kochhar by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in a case linked to alleged corruption in an over ₹3,000-crore loan provided to the Videocon Group.
According to revelations made by the government in response to an RTI query, the bad assets of ICICI Bank stood at ₹2,223 crores in the financial year 2006-07. As Kochhar assumed the office of the CFO, the bank’s bad loans surged to ₹4,126 crores – and it never came down during her entire tenure.
In FY 2008-09 when she became the top officer at ICICI, the bank’s NPAs rose to ₹7,570 crores which further increased to ₹9,565 crores the next fiscal, according to the RTI reply received by Pune-based businessman Prafful Sarda.
It came down slightly lower to ₹9,267 crores in FY 2010-11 when she received India’s highest civilian award the Padma Bhushan. According to reports in 2019, the Modi government was contemplating withdrawing the Padma award given to her but it has yet to materialise.
Kochhar has been accused of criminal conspiracy and cheating by the CBI for alleged irregularities in a loan ₹3,250 crore in 2012 to the Videocon Group, which eventually became NPA in 2017.
Under her watch, the ICICI Bank was caught flouting banking rules issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and got penalised by it in 2014.
“The reflection of unprecedented increase in NPA of ICICI BANK under the leadership of Chanda Kocchar signifies a high degree of compromise in due diligence and KYC processes with the intent to benefit the borrowers and corruption in ICICI’s banking system to propel growth,” economist Yogendra Kapoor told The New Indian.
Once considered a ‘super banker’ in India and the epitome of women’s empowerment, Kochhar has received numerous awards for her leadership. She was featured in ‘The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women’ list by Forbes International for seven consecutive years and the ‘Most Powerful Women in Business’ list by Fortune India for five consecutive years.
She was also featured in TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the world.
According to the CBI, Kochhar allegedly ignored banking norms and rules while sanctioning loans to Videocon Group in lieu of favours to her husband’s business interests.
As part of their deal, Videocon promoter Venugopal Dhoot invested crores of rupees in Deepak’s company NuPower Renewables months after the group received a loan of ₹3,250 crores from ICICI Bank in 2012. After six months, Dhoot also gave a loan of ₹64 crores to NuPower.
During its investigation, the CBI found that the money was part of a loan of ₹40,000 crores that Videocon received from a consortium of 20 banks led by the State Bank of India (SBI).
Speaking to The New Indian, businessman Sarda said Kocchar’s hunger for money and power has downgraded the Indian banking system.
“It’s high time RBI should reframe credit-related policy matters to avoid further damage to the economy. I urge the PMO and President must take back Padma Bhushan given to her and setup an example before the nation,” he said.