NEW DELHI (TIP): The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered 10 FIRs against six companies for allegedly defaulting on loans from state-run banks. The companies against whom the agency has filed FIRs include Deccan Chronicle Holdings (DCHL), Zoom Developers, Pixion Media, Century Communications, Rajat Pharma Chem and STCL.
The CBI has also registered FIRs against some public servants to probe the conspiracy aspect. The agency is expected to include some more “big names” in the days ahead as several preliminary enquiries have also been registered, sources said. CBI is also probing the role of banks in restructuring of loans. Efforts to reach DCHL and some of the other companies for comments, which are named in CBI’s FIRs, did not yield results.
The finance ministry and RBI have expressed concern over spiralling of bad loans in the banking sector. Finance minister P Chidambaram has said willful defaulters would be sternly dealt with. Indian banks, led by the public sector, have accumulated sticky loans of over Rs 6.5 lakh crore till the end of 2013. Construction, infrastructure, steel and textile companies are the top defaulters.
The country’s largest lender, State Bank of India, also tops in bad loans, followed by Punjab National Bank and Central Bank of India. The CBI last year began verification of nonperforming assets of banks and thousands of documents were verified by the Bank Securities & Fraud Cell of the agency with the help of financial experts. Sources say that among the 10 FIRs registered, five have been filed against Rajat Pharma.
The company has outstanding loans of Rs 361 crore with several banks, CBI sources said. The FIR against Zoom Developers says the company has an outstanding of Rs 2,002 crore. Several banks and financial institutions have threatened to auction properties of the group in Mumbai and Indore. DCHL has an outstanding of Rs 1,180 crore, repayable to the banks, CBI sources said. Another major defaulter is STCL, the company which is in the process of winding up. It has an outstanding loan of Rs 1,529 crore, according to the CBI’s FIR. “We will register more FIRs in coming weeks,” said a senior CBI officer, adding that the agency was looking into several other companies.
The CBI has sought documents from the companies, banks which have given loans and the ministry of finance. The agency’s probe also focuses on the role of banks, as several banks did not file complaints with the authorities despite pending loans for years, CBI source said. CBI director Ranjit Sinha, during a recent conference of vigilance officers, had drawn their attention to the problem of bad loans in the banking sector. “A bulk of NPAs is from the top 30 accounts, which is learnt to be running into thousands of crores,” Sinha had said.
“At times, there appears to be reluctance on the part of banks to declare bad accounts as frauds despite there being clear-cut manifestations. There is a need to realize that the delay in reporting of a fraud will adversely affect the tracking and recovery of proceeds of crime. Another issue is the fixing of accountability of staff and there are often differences of opinion between the CBI and banks regarding the role of public servants,” Sinha had said.