The Central Bureau of Investigation has transferred the investigating officer in the ICICI Bank case as its ‘discreet inquiry’ suggested his role in leaking information related to searches, officials said on Sunday.
Superintendent of Police Sudhanshu Dhar Mishra was transferred to Ranchi, a day after filing a first information report in the case against former ICICI CEO Chanda Kochhar, her husband Deepak Kochhar and Videocon Group MD Venugopal Dhoot on January 22, they said.
The agency had carried out searches at multiple locations after the charge of the case was given to new investigating officer Mohit Gupta, they said.
Justifying the transfer, the CBI pinned the blame on Mishra for keeping the preliminary enquiry pending without any reasons, they said.
The CBI did not issue any formal statement in this regard.
"ICICI Bank case is one of the very important cases that was pending without progress," one of the officials said.
The official said after review some time ago, the preliminary enquiry wad sped up and was converted into a regular case.
Immediately after the registration of the case, the searches were proposed to be conducted, they said.
"However, it was suspected that there was a possibility of information regarding searches being leaked," the official claimed.
"A discreet inquiry was conducted and role of Sudhanshu Dhar Mishra was strongly suspected. Hence he has been transferred pending detailed inquiry in the matter, being serious," he said.
The official alleged that role of Mishra and others, if any, in ‘keeping the PE pending’ is also being looked into.
Meanwhile, the agency did not respond to question if Mishra was suspected of leaking the information why was he allowed to file the FIR when agency knew that he was delaying the preliminary enquiry.
The agency also did not respond to question which officer had cleared the FIR.
The agency had carried out searches at the offices of Videocon Group in Mumbai and Nupower Renewables and Supreme Powers, both controlled by Chanda Kochhar's husband, on January 24.
It is alleged that during the tenure of Chanda Kochhar six loans worth Rs 1,875 crore were cleared for Videocon Group and its associated companies in which in two cases she herself was on the sanctioning committees.
In its FIR, the CBI has also named several top honchos of banking industry including the present CEO of ICICI Bank Sandeep Baxi alleging that they were also members of the sanctioning committees whose role needs investigation.
Banking doyen and Chairman of New Development Bank K V Kamath, Goldman Sachs India chairman Sonjoy Chatterjee, Standard Chartered Bank CEO Zarin Daruwala, Tata Capital head Rajiv Sabharwal and Tata Capital senior advisor Homi Khusrokhan need to be investigated, according to the FIR.
Their names were included by the agency in the text of the FIR after a year-long preliminary enquiry.
The action attracted strong comments from former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who advised the agency against ‘adventurism’.
"Sitting thousands of kilometres away, when I read the list of potential targets in the ICICI case, the thought that crossed my mind was again the same -- instead of focusing primarily on the target, is a journey to nowhere (or everywhere) being undertaken? If we include the entire who's who of the banking industry -- with or without evidence – what cause are we serving or actually hurting."
Jaitley, who was finance minister of India till last week and had to temporarily hand over the charge to his fellow minister Piyush Goyal for the duration of his indisposition, advised the investigators -- "Follow the advice of Arjun in the Mahabharat -- Just concentrate on the bull's eye."