ICICI-Videocon PMLA case: HC grants bail to Deepak Kochhar

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(Eds: Adding court's observations) Mumbai, Mar 25 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Thursday granted bail to Deepak Kochhar, husband of former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar, in a money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

There was no likelihood of Kochhar absconding or tampering with evidence, the court held while granting him relief.

Kochhar had approached the high court after a special court in the city rejected his bail plea in December last year.

Justice P D Naik of the high court, while granting bail to Kochhar on Thursday, directed him to furnish a personal bond of Rs three lakh.

The high court also directed Kochhar to surrender his passport before the special court in the city hearing the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cases, and asked him to co-operate with the probe.

Kochhar was arrested by the ED in September last year under the PMLA in the alleged ICICI Bank-Videocon money laundering case.

The ED had registered the money laundering case following an FIR by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against the Kochhar couple, Videocon Group promoter Venugopal Dhoot, and others for allegedly causing loss to the ICICI Bank by sanctioning loans to the Videocon Group of companies in contravention of the bank's policies.

Kochhar had argued that the ED had taken note of all the alleged proceeds of the crime in the case, so there was no chance of him creating any third party rights or interfering with the probe if out on bail.

He had also said in his bail plea that the entire case against him was based on documentary evidence, which was already in the ED's possession, and hence there was no question of him tampering with the evidence The ED's lawyers Hiten Venegaonkar and Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh had opposed Kochhar's bail plea, saying that the charges against him were serious.

ASG Singh had also said under the PMLA bail can be given only if the court has grounds for believing that the accused is not guilty and is not likely to commit any offence while on bail.

In his 94-page judgement, Justice Naik noted that Kochhar had been in custody for six months and co-accused in the case, including his wife Chanda Kochhar and Videocon Group promoter V N Dhoot, were already out on bail.

'The question of tampering with evidence does not arise. The applicant is permanent resident of Mumbai. The question of absconding does not arise,' Justice Naik said.

'Considering the circumstances, further detention of the applicant is not necessary,' the judge said.

He, however, directed Kochhar to report to the Enforcement Directorate on the first Saturday of every month between 11.00 AM and 1.00 PM until further orders.

The court also prohibited Kochhar from leaving the country without the special court's permission. PTI AYA KRK KRK