Prosecution to wrap up its case by April-end

Prosecution to wrap up its case by April-end

Hyderabad: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) expects to complete presenting its case in the trial of Satyam Computer Services Ltd founder chairman B. Ramalinga Raju and nine other accused in India’s biggest corporate fraud by the end of April, three months before the deadline set by the Supreme Court for the completion of the trial.

The trial started in a special court in Hyderabad in November last year, 22 months after Raju confessed to having misstated accounts to the tune of 7,136 crore at what was then ranked India’s fourth biggest computer services firm. Some 180 witnesses out of a list of around 240 have already testified, said CBI counsel K. Surender.

Around 2,500 documents have been submitted.

“The trial process is going as per our plan," Surender said, adding that the prosecution hoped to wrap up its case by the end of April.

The Supreme Court has ordered the additional chief metropolitan court in Hyderabad, designated the special court to hear the case, to hold daily hearings and complete the trial by 31 July, while cancelling bail granted by the Andhra Pradesh high court to Raju and five others. If the trial is not finished by the deadline, the accused would be free to approach the trial court for bail.

The suspects have been charged with criminal breach of trust, cheating, forgery and falsification of accounts. Those charged in the case include Raju, his brother B. Rama Raju, former chief financial officer Vadlamani Srinivas and two Price Waterhouse auditors, S. Gopalakrishnan and Talluri Srinivas. Raju, his brother and Srinivas have also been accused of criminal conspiracy.

The court hearing the case is “not competent" to conduct the trial, Raju’s counsel Bharat Kumar said without elaborating. Lawyers will appeal for bail after 31 July deadline specified by the Supreme Court, he said.

Separately, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which probes violations of foreign exchange laws, has completed its own investigation of suspected money laundering and filed a chargesheet against Raju, but has not yet launched court proceedings.

The agency has also attached property valued at several hundred crore of rupees belonging to Raju and his family members. “The attachment of properties is still on. We are in the process of identifying more properties bought by Raju and his associates using funds diverted from Satyam," said a senior ED official who didn’t want to be named.

ED has to wait until the trial is over before moving a court.

“The experience of the Satyam case calls for better coordination among various law enforcement agencies to avoid duplication of charges or other procedural issues," said Darshan Upadhyay, an associate partner at the legal firm Economic Law Practice. “Ultimately what matters is time-bound delivery of justice."

The trial process was delayed partly because Raju received an exemption from attending the trial on health grounds, suffering from Heptatis C.

Raju and five other accused were granted bail in August 2010 by the Andhra Pradesh high court—a respite that proved to be shortlived when the Supreme Court cancelled the bail.

“We hope to finish prosecution evidence by April-end. After that the defence will make its case and court would then announce its verdict. We hope the entire process to get over before 31 July," said a high-ranking CBI official, who investigated the matter. “We have sent letter rogatories to five countries—the US, UK, Belgium, Mauritius and British Virgin Islands. Depending upon the evidence we get from these countries, we will take a call to file another supplementary chargesheet in the case," added the official who didn’t want to be named.

CBI has so far filed one chargesheet and two supplementary chargesheets in the case.

Sahil Makkar in New Delhi contributed to this story.