Emails between former NSE MD Chitra Ramkrishna & ‘yogi’, a coded puzzle for investigators

Chitra Ramkrishna, former CEO & MD, National Stock Exchange (NSE). File

Chitra Ramkrishna, former CEO & MD, National Stock Exchange (NSE). File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Investigators examining the email exchanges between Chitra Ramkrishna, controversial former MD and CEO of the National Stock Exchange (NSE), and an unidentified ‘yogi’, suspect the two may have been using a code.

The emails, which show that a ‘yogi’ was guiding Ms. Ramkrishna to run the NSE, have several paragraphs that seem out of place. For example, in February 2017, the guru wrote to Ms. Ramkrishna, “Keep bags ready I am planning a travel to Seychelles next month, will try if you can come with me, before Kanchan goes to London with Kanchana and Barghava and you to New Zealand with two children. ‘HK is a preferred transit or Singapore for onward journey.’ In case you need help, pl let me know Seshu will do the needful.”

This has puzzled the investigators because there were direct flights available between India and the Seychelles, a mere four-hour journey, from the end of 2014 itself. In the absence of direct flights, Dubai and Sri Lanka were the only transit points to the Seychelles from India. But the guru wanted Ms. Ramkrishna to take an onward journey from Hong Kong or Singapore, though they had no direct connections to the Seychelles back then, and it entailed eight to 10 hours of travel. Add to this, the three to four hours needed to fly from India to Singapore or Hong Kong. Investigators are examining if the circuitous route was taken to hide travel details.

Two children?

Sources in the NSE and others who have interacted with Ms. Ramkrishna personally, say she has only a daughter. 

Investigators are checking if she indeed had two children or whether the use of “two children” could be a code to convey something else. Ms. Ramkrishna had appointed Anand Subramanian as a virtual second-in-command at the NSE. SEBI has said the names, Kanchan and Kanchana, in the emails refer to Mr. Subramanian and his wife, who was working with the NSE’s Chennai office. 

But questions arise over why the couple was to travel to London, that too on the yogi’s  advice, and why he wanted Ramkrishna to go to New Zealand with (whose) two children.

The Seychelles, interestingly, is an offshore tax haven, but in the context of India, it attracts little attention from authorities since Mauritius, Singapore and Switzerland have been the preferred tax havens for hiding or re-routing hot money into the country. The emails between Ms. Ramkrishna and her guru date back to a time when India had no information-sharing treaty with the Seychelles on black money.

India signed an information-sharing pact with the Seychelles only in August 2015. Thus, only a person with full knowledge of India’s administrative, political and legal system could choose the Seychelles for hiding wealth, knowing it would attract less scrutiny than other larger tax havens. The Seychelles imposes no tax on companies that use the island’s banks for investment or routing of money to other countries, including India. An offshore company there pays no taxes on income generated abroad.

(The author is Palak Shah, a journalist with Business Line)

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2022 1:07:54 pm |