Neew Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday filed a challenge in the Supreme Court against the bail granted to Satyam Computer Services Ltd founder B. Ramalinga Raju, accused in India’s largest case of corporate fraud.
The investigating agency said Ramalinga Raju can influence the trial in the 2009 case, whose magnitude has since doubled to an estimated Rs 14,000 crore.
Being challenged: An August photo of former Satyam chief B. Ramalinga Raju in Hyderabad. The Andhra Pradesh high court granted him bail on 18 August for two sureties of Rs20 lakh each. Bharath Sai/ Mint
“He is a very influential man and can influence the witnesses. So we approached the apex court to cancel his bail,” said deputy inspector general of police V.V. Lakshmi Narayana, who is heading the CBI team investigating the fraud. “Ramalinga Raju being at large can be detrimental to case.”
The Andhra Pradesh high court granted bail to Ramalinga Raju on 18 August for two sureties of Rs 20 lakh each. CBI was waiting for permission from the Union law ministry before filing the challenge— which it received last week. It is mandatory for the agency to seek the ministry’s consent before approaching the apex court in any case.
Two other accused—B. Rama Raju, Ramalinga Raju’s brother and Satyam’s managing director when the scandal broke in January 2009, and then chief financial officer V. Srinivas—were granted bail on 20 July. CBI challenged their bail last month.
Ramalinga Raju’s lawyer Bharat Kumar said he was not aware of the CBI move. “I have no such information. I do not know on what ground they have approached the Supreme Court,” he said on the phone from Hyderabad.
During the bail hearing, the CBI had told the Andhra Pradesh high court that Ramalinga Raju could tamper with evidence if released. Additional solicitor general Harin P. Raval, who appeared for the agency, stressed the size of the fraud and said there were no grounds for granting bail.
But defence counsel M. Natarajan argued that as Ramalinga Raju had been booked under the same sections of the law as Rama Raju and Srinivas, he could not be treated differently.
On 7 January 2009, Ramalinga Raju confessed to fudging the books of Satyam to the tune of at least Rs 7,136 crore over several years. He later retracted his confession in a trial court by responding in the negative to questions posed by the court about the fraud.
The burden of proof now rests with CBI.
The ownership of Satyam Computer has changed hands since, in a transaction overseen by a government-appointed board, helping the firm retain most of its customers and employees. The firm is now owned by the Mahindra Group’s Tech Mahindra Ltd and is known as Mahindra Satyam.