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SEBI lost valuable time in Satyam probe

N. Rahul

HYDERABAD: It will be at least one month before the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), can gain access to the former chairman of Satyam Computer Services, B. Ramalinga Raju, and his brother, B. Rama Raju, and question them about their share transactions.

To be precise, the SEBI has no chance of examining them before February 9, as the Andhra Pradesh High Court has given the Raju brothers time till then to respond to notices served on them seeking an opinion whether they could be questioned by the market regulator.

A top official of the Crime Investigation Department (CID) said the SEBI had itself to blame for this long time lapse.

He told The Hindu that the situation would have been far different had it initiated timely action on January 7 when Mr. Ramalinga Raju resigned from the board.

The official said the SEBI was the first to learn about the resignation of Mr. Ramalinga Raju as he had e-mailed the letter to the market regulator’s chairman C.B. Bhave even before informing the board. Upon this, Mr. Bhave contacted Mr. Raju over the phone to confirm the genuineness of the e-mail.

SEBI chief’s advice

The SEBI chairman, at the same time, advised Mr. Raju to copy the letter to various agencies, the Reserve Bank of India and the Directors. Mr. Raju was also asked to stamp each page with the Satyam seal and append his signature, which he failed to do, sources in the CID said quoting the ex-chairman’s statement while in their custody.

The official said the SEBI lost crucial time on January 7 and 8 by making virtually no efforts to question Mr. Raju. It was only on the afternoon of January 9 that he received a notice, asking him to appear before it at 4 p.m. the same day. SEBI general manager A. Sunil Kumar, who is the divisional chief of the regulator for the southern States, came here from Chennai to interrogate him.

However, Mr. Raju sought one more day’s time to face the SEBI but, instead, walked into the custody of the CID on January 9 night. Thereafter, it was a legal battle for the SEBI officials to question Mr. Raju as the CID refused to permit them to meet him in its custody.

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