Govt should restore people's faith in banking system: ICICI whistleblower

Arvind Gupta
Arvind Gupta, who has a degree in economics from Banaras Hindu University, is the founder-trustee of Indian Investors Protection Council and has uncovered the connection between NuPower Renewables, of which Deepak Kochhar is the co-founder and chief executive officer, and the Videocon group. Gupta tells Pavan Lall that the government must fix the banking system quickly. Edited excerpts: 

In 2016, when you learned about these connections between banks, business houses and an entrepreneur, whom did you reach out to?

I reached out to the Prime Minister’s Office, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the Central Vigilance Commission, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Serious Fraud Investigation Office, and the Finance Minister’s office. Absolutely no one responded. No reaction whatsoever. I don’t blame them. This has been the culture of governance for the past 30 years.

What is your motivation in highlighting what you feel is an unusual connection among NuPower Renewables, Videocon and ICICI Bank?

It is the right and responsibility of every investor and Indian in the business space to flag off these issues — unusual and out of the ordinary equations that seem too close for comfort. Probe it and you will discover something. All this information is public. The answers are all out there.

You have also been an investor in Videocon?

Yes, I have also invested in ICICI Bank and State Bank of India and dozens of others. So that’s not special in itself. I invest in many companies. 

I have been fighting for economic justice. This is my passion. I feel it is my obligation to point out these issues because many others do not have the ability to do so. 

You have also talked about a widespread culture of abuse within corporations…. 

Generally, transactions among Indian firms and overseas subsidiaries are fishy. All of those should be subjected to forensic audits. Round-tripping of funds between Indian companies and ones overseas and over-invoicing are the oldest tricks in the trade.

Has ICICI Bank reached out to you to clarify issues? 

No, no one from any of the companies in question has reached out. 

What do you expect the authorities concerned to do at this stage?

I would like fast-eroding faith and confidence of investors, shareholders, and debtors in the banking system to be restored by the government.

To do that, they need to conduct forensic audits and zero in on the details of transactions. Take action when problems are noticed. They need to fast-track urgent issues.  The prime minister has said he has zero tolerance for corruption. I want to see that in effect. 

Do you see the problem in our banking sector as one that is historical?

Substantially, so: India is the only country where we have social banking driven by political reasons. Loan “melas” and social lending are the norm. We are losing money that belongs to the common man. This is sad because the common man trusts banks and hopes that his money is safe. As I said earlier, if faith is not restored, we are heading towards a financial crisis and the banking sector might collapse. 

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