The bank account and identity of Manju Das, the domestic help of Anil Kumar, was used to re-route money by Galleon and Mr Kumar, without her knowledge. Mr Kumar, who was a witness against close friends and business partners, Raj Rajaratnam and Rajat Gupta, however, is defending his position rather strongly on the whole episode
It was the damning testimonty of Anil Kumar, (Doon school, IIT, Imperial College London, Wharton School of Business & Sr Partner McKinsey & Company) against his close friends Raj Rajaratnam (CEO of the multi-billion hedge fund Galleon) and Rajat Gupta (head of McKinsey & Company) that led to their indictment and imprisonment.
Anil Kumar’s testimony allowed him to get away two years probation without prison time and forfeiture of $2.6 million of illegal gains. What made the headlines during his 2006 testimony was the name Manju Das, into whose offshore account Rajrathnam was making the big payoffs for inside information from Kumar.
Manju Das hit the headlines again in November, when American journalist Nilita Vachani tracked Manju Das to Bengal and discovered a very poor, almost illiterate woman ekeing out a bare existence. The articles in The Nation and The Caravan have been circulated around the world via social media. Ms Vachani dug into the details of Anil Kumar’s testimony and asked Manju Das about the accounts in her name and how much she was paid.
A surprising new twist to the tale is the aggressive defense being put out by Anil Kumar, especially about his payments to Manju Das, whether or not she was illiterate and the author’s motivations. But what comes out in his answers is the complete lack of empathy for a lonely woman who spent over a decade away from her people, to look after his child in America. There is also a stunning lack of concern that Vachani and others are trying to crowd raise funds for Manju Das. What is Anil Kumar worried about?
Moneylife wrote to him, on learning from Anil Pillai on twitter that Anil Kumar’s office had sent him a letter contradicting some of the allegations in The Nation and The Caravan. Both the magazines have largely stood by their articles except for minor updates about how much Manju Das was paid. We wrote to Anil Kumar to ask him what he had to say and received a detailed reply and a call.
In an email, Mr Kumar did not deny his testimony in the US securities fraud trail about money sent to an overseas account of Manju Das. His issue is with the HSBC account opened at Bengaluru in 2008 using Kumar’s Delhi address as residence proof.
In the email, Mr Kumar argues, "The Das HSBC account was opened in late 2008, only at her request since she was concerned that her joint account with her son in Calcutta was being compromised by bad influences in her village”. Interestingly, Manju Das did not say this to Vachani.
He further says, “If she is financially poorly off now, it could well be because of the very concerns she shared with us in the US -- that her relatives would take advantage of her. It is hard to figure how someone who received well over Rs50 lakh would be in the situation indicated by (Nilita) Vachani. Das asked for a bank account with our Delhi home as the address. She badly wanted a ration card, and requested my assistance to get it, and I could only help her in Delhi where we had a home. That Delhi address is clear from the HSBC statements." But why then a HSBC account in Bengaluru?
HSBC is already under investigation for its role in helping American-Indians open accounts in India to evade taxes. Most of these questions are asked by the US authorities and not Indian investigation agencies or the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). But some answers on the bank’s KYC and account opening processes are surely called for. Consider this: Manju Das of West Bengal, living and working in the US, gets an account in Bengaluru with an address in Delhi – and a ration card. Can there be a better example of how none of the rules apply to those who are powerful, connected and have fat bank accounts?
Here is what Mr Kumar said in an email to Moneylife. We have left out what his admissions relating to the overseas account in Manju Das’s name to which Rajrathnam transferred funds, since that is part of his testimoney.
1. There was no Galleon related financial fund flow entailing Das outside the Galleon offshore fund subscription documentation in 2003-2006, and subsequent dissolution documentation of the Das/Galleon offshore accounts in 2007-2008. Any other statement is a premeditated falsehood, made despite trial evidence to the contrary.
3. The Das HSBC account was opened in late 2008, only at her request since she was concerned that her joint account with her son in Calcutta was being compromised by bad influences in her village. If she is financially poorly off now, it could well be because of the very concerns she shared with us in the US -- that her relatives would take advantage of her. It is hard to figure how someone who received well over 50 lacs would be in the situation indicated by Vachani.
Das asked for a bank account with our Delhi home as the address. She badly wanted a ration card, and requested my assistance to get it, and I could only help her in Delhi where we had a home. That Delhi address is clear from the HSBC statements.
4. The HSBC account was only held by Das. It was only used to wire in her salary and deposit into long term FDs. On maturation of her FDs in mid-2010, Das withdrew all the money in her HSBC account for her use. As you well know, a bank statement with a single name in India shows clearly that it is only in the name of the sole account holder. The only transaction was the 14 lacs wired into it as is clear from the statements. It is impossible for her to say she knew nothing of the account into which Rs14 lacs of salary were deposited. Who would ignore Rs14 lacs in salary, especially someone with Das's background? And how did she withdraw money from it without knowing of it?
5. The fact that Das's Delhi address (Bengaluru branch) HSBC account was used for proof of her address does not in any way make the account one in which monies related to Raj/Galleon were sent. Nothing of this sort happened, or else it would have been revealed at the trial. When dissolving the Das/Galleon offshore accounts in 2007/8, the Galleon custodians wanted proof that Das had an Indian address. That proof was furnished via a statement from her doctor, whom she met annually on her prolonged vacations home to India, and her sole Delhi HSBC bank statement.
6. Despite my lawyers providing court transcripts and much evidence, Vachani has continued to intentionally mislead her readers, and also not fully disclosed her connections to Raj, suggesting speculative motives.
7. Matters related to the intentionally malicious and defamatory Nation and Caravan articles are still being resolved. Various correspondences from my lawyers to the Nation/Caravan, and additional evidence, are not yet in the public domain, since the matter is now under investigation.
8. Das is not illiterate. She reads and writes in Bengali, reads some Hindi and a little English. We also have incontrovertible evidence of her signing in English well before we first met her.
9. The message to Raj saying "Manju Das" was to remind him of her name, since he knew she had a nominee account with Galleon but had forgotten her name.
Again, the ONLY money ever sent to the Das account at HSBC India was her salary, at her request, and subsequently used/withdrawn by her.