The investigation launched by the Income Tax (I-T) Department, which on Thursday searched the premises of former NSE Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Chitra Ramkrishna in Mumbai, may throw up some lead on the identity of the unknown yogi with whom she had been sharing internal information.
In Chennai, an I-T team from Mumbai conducted searches on three premises, including that of Anand Subramanian, former Group Operating Officer and Adviser to the National Stock Exchange (NSE). “The probe team goes through financial records of the assessees concerned during the check period. Given that certain facts have been highlighted in the Securities and Exchange Board of India [SEBI] order, following the money trail can lead to the identification of the unknown person,” said an agency official in the know of the procedure involved in investigations.
SEBI slaps penalties
On February 11, the SEBI issued an order levying penalties on the NSE, Ms. Ramkrishna and others for violating rules while appointing Mr. Subramanian as Chief Strategic Adviser and then re-designating him as the Group Operating Officer and Adviser to the then MD of the exchange. The SEBI, as first reported by BusinessLine, also found that Ms. Ramkrishna shared various internal information of the NSE with the unknown yogi, with whom she was in touch for about 20 years. It was alleged that she also consulted the person via email for the appraisal of employee performance and this way, Mr. Subramanian got substantial increments in quick succession.
In January 2013, Mr. Subramanian was offered ₹1.68 crore for the post of Chief Strategic Adviser in the NSE, when his last drawn salary was ₹15 lakh in a government corporation. His cost-to-company shot up to ₹4.21 crore by April 2016. Ms. Ramkrishna resigned from the NSE in 2016. Although the senior functionaries had come to know about the issues, no action was taken in this regard at that time. During the inquiry, the SEBI found that the yogi was also well known to Mr. Subramanian. They communicated through the former’s email account “email@example.com”.
In its order, the Board noted that the laptops assigned to Ms. Ramkrishna and Mr. Subramanian were not available for forensic imaging as they were disposed of as e-waste. Contents of only their official email accounts could be checked.
“Based on the emails, it appeared that confidential data pertaining to the NSE was forwarded to the unknown person by Noticee No. 1 (Ms. Ramkrishna) and also by Noticee No.6 (Mr. Subramanian) for seeking guidance or in response to information requested by the unknown person,” said the order. The information included data pertaining to the NSE’s five-year financial projections, dividend pay-out ratio, business plans, agenda of the Board meeting and consultations over the ratings/performance appraisals of NSE employees.
‘A spiritual force’
Ms. Ramkrishna, in her statements to the SEBI on April 14, 2018, said the identity of the email id holder “firstname.lastname@example.org” was “Siddha Purusha/Yogi i.e. a Paramahansa who maybe largely dwelling in the Himalayan ranges”; that he was a spiritual force who had been guiding her for the past 20 years; such a force that “their spiritual powers do not require them to have any such physical co-ordinates and would manifest at will”.
Ms. Ramkrishna was the Managing Director and the CEO of the NSE from April 1, 2013 to December 2, 2016. The SEBI had received complaints against her on December 15, 2015; May 25, 2016; and November 11, 2016, alleging governance issues in the appointment of Mr. Subramanian, then the Group Operating Officer and Adviser to the Managing Director.