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Cannot ignore banks’ role in Satyam scam

The judgement in the criminal charges of Satyam Computer accounting scandal has been postponed to March 9. This is a classic case of ‘Under Trail’, for the last 6 years; Ramalinga Raju has been languishing in Jail and succumbed to tortures from various facets of life. It’s high time to revamp the judicial system in India; the need to expedite the verdict should be adapted else fast track courts need to be established to deal with the same. The accused is under trial for so many years and yet courts have failed to pass the verdict.

As a saying goes, those who are caught are thieves and others are gentlemen. Everybody has a pie in this. It’s a scam involving Rs. 14,000 crores of public money. To discourage such incidents in future, the punishment should have been a life term of rigorous imprisonment and confiscate all the assets of the convicted persons involved (including all those masterminds who are yet to be booked). Return the money to the concerned people after deducting expenses. Raju was adorned by everyone when the company was at peak. Same people had taken U turn and given all sort of adjectives when he had fallen. The greedy investor lost their money. The grapevine in Hyderabad feels that he had invested heavily into land deals at behest of late Y S Rajashekara Reddy and bought the benami and Poramboku Government lands.

For sure, Raju has done a major scam, but we cannot ignore banks’ role in it. Satyam is not the only one such company. There are many such IT companies in Hyderabad that have used the same modus operandi. The auditors, valuers, lawyers, banking personnel, STPI, SEZ authorities, all play a role in this scam. The court is to give the verdict in three cases filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation since April 2009. The CBI had produced 226 witnesses and voluminous documents to the court as part of prosecution. The court had provided 3,187 documents as objects of evidence.

The court was constituted in 2010 to exclusively deal with the Satyam cases though they were tried by a regular Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate prior to that. When the scam broke out following the confessional statement by Ramalinga Raju on January 7, 2009, the investigation was handled by the Crime Investigation Department of the State government which affected the initial arrest of the accused. The case was transferred to CBI in a couple of months. The agency constituted a multi-disciplinary investigation team with financial and other experts and filed three chargesheets. It also sent oratory letters to six countries seeking information on company transactions.

Some days ago, an economic offence court had sentenced B. Ramalinga Raju, his brother and managing director B. Rama Raju and chief financial officer Srinivas Vadlamani to six months imprisonment in seven cases filed by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs under Companies Act. However, the verdict was suspended for a month to enable the accused to appeal in a higher court. The Satyam case is not just another economic offence. It shook the foundations of investors’ confidence in IT companies. The way stock market behaved after this scam was come to light was an example.

How the auditors were not detected in the fraud of the company is still mysterious. Is it so hi-tech that people from commerce background could not smell it? It looks quite strange from the point of view of the layman as the fraud was done through manipulating Bank Reconciliation Statement, periodical Bank Statements and company invoices and so on.

The fact is that this scandal has faded from the public memory. After five years, only a verdict date has been announced but nothing concrete has happened. There is only one reason, why Satyam case has faded which is cropping of the 2G scam. If special court may deliver its verdict then accused have right to appeal in higher court, and there also it will take years.

If you compare the Satyam case with similar cases in US then Ramalinga Raju’s punishment will look very little. U.S. Bernie Madoff, who made off with $65 billion of investor money was handed out a 150-year jail sentence in June 2009, within three months of the scandal coming to light. The assets he had accumulated were sold off to repay at least a part of what he owed to investors. Jeffrey Skilling, former president of Enron was convicted to 24 years in jail in 2006, soon after the scandal surfaced.

Lengthy judicial procedure has taken six years and it may take some more years. Why court allows the guilty to adopt delaying tactics? The court case ought to have proceeded faster and Mr. Raju and his accomplices should be thrown into jail by now.

Dr. Vaidehi Taman
Dr. Vaidehi is an Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and an Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. Since 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond the news (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which she caters for her sister-concern Kaizen-India Infosec Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

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