CBI opposes Dhoot’s plea, says systematic attempt by him & Kochhars to avoid probe

The agency opposed the plea, saying the magnitude of the CBI investigation cannot be compared with the ED investigation.

Mumbai,UPDATED: Jan 13, 2023 15:44 IST

Dhoot’s lawyer claimed that the Videocon Group chairman had medical issues was cooperating with the probe, hence he should be set free.

By Vidya : The Bombay High Court has reserved its order on the petition of Videocon Chairman Venugopal Dhoot who was seeking that his arrest by the CBI be declared illegal and he be set free. A few days ago, the high court had set free two of Dhoot’s co-accused, Chanda and Deepak Kochhar, on the same grounds.

The bench of Justices Revati Mohite Dere and Prithviraj Chavan during the hearing made it clear that they were not going into the merits of the case or of Dhoot’s medical condition, but were hearing the case purely on the aspect of illegal arrest.

READ | After Kochhar couple, Venugopal Dhoot seeks release in loan fraud case

Two lawyers, Subhash Jha and Mathew Nedumpara, tried to intervene, pointing out some issues that they said the CBI should have looked into. But the court asked them to argue only on the point of locus and closed the petition hearing for orders.

ED NEVER ARRESTED DHOOT

Advocate Sandeep Ladda, appearing for Dhoot, pointed out that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) never arrested the businessman. “He had been called at least 31 times by the ED and he had cooperated all the time and so he was never arrested during the investigation, and he was granted bail by the PMLA court after filing of chargesheet,” said Ladda.

Replying to this, advocate Raja Thackeray, appearing for the CBI, said the ED’s case was limited to investigation in money laundering allegations, while the CBI investigation encompasses conspiracy, corruption and cheating, among other things. “The magnitude of the CBI investigation cannot be compared to the ED investigation.”

ARRESTED AFTER YEARS

Dhoot, in his plea, had pointed out that the FIR was registered way back in 2018 and it is only now that the arrest has been made.

Thackeray submitted, “The question is, had they been arrested then, would it have been legal and if it’s done now, is that illegal? These are cases of high magnitude. There are innumerable transactions that the CBI has to go through. The entire material that is required for interrogation may not have been immediately available to the investigators. Therefore, there is no haste shown by CBI for custodial interrogation.”

ALSO READ | Ex-ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar, husband sent to 3-day CBI custody in Videocon loan case

He further added, “Therefore it cannot be stated: What were you doing all these years? The court can see the case diaries. The bonafide way in which the CBI is investigating the matter, will be reflected in the case diary.”

KOCHHARS-DHOOT FIXED MATCH

Ladda showed the arrest memo to the court. It shows: “Arrested on December 26, 2022. Grounds: FIR named the accused and he is inconsistent in his statement and has been changing his statement and not cooperating and revealing the true facts of the case. It is the same as that in Kochhars’ case,” said Ladda.

Thackeray, however, countered by stating that that Dhoot had appeared before the CBI on December 22. But when the Kochhars were called on December 23, he did not appear. The agency needed all three to be brought together for corroboration. On that day, Dhoot apparently had gone to the ED as he had been summoned there as well.

ALSO READ | Venugopal Dhoot, Chanda Kochhar, her husband in CBI custody till Dec 28 in loan fraud case

Thackeray said, “Dhoot came on 22 December, but Kochhars did not attend. On December 23, the Kochhars were arrested, and he was called, but he did not come. He said that he was going to the ED office. He could have given the same reply to the ED and extended cooperation to CBI. He knew that he would be confronted with the Kochhars and so he did not turn up.”

Thackeray further added, “There has been a systematic attempt by Dhoot and Kocchars to avoid the probe. It is a case of conspiracy. When they were out, they used to decide what precise answers were to be given. But the moment one person is arrested, then they decide to pass the buck on the other and then we get the statement that should have been given.”

THE CONFRONTATION

When the bench enquired if the three were confronted, Thackeray said after their arrest the trio were brought face-to-face on two occasions. “December 26 and 27 the accused were confronted and for five days they were interrogated,” said Thackeray. Ladda countered by saying, “I have my instructions, there was no confrontation.”

ALSO READ | Bombay HC dismisses Chanda Kochhar’s plea for reinstatement of ICICI stock options

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Jan 13, 2023

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