The South Asian presence in the Raj trial is not small.
The defendant was born in Sri Lanka. Cooperating witnesses hail from India. Other characters in the case are of Indian descent. In fact, so is the U.S Attorney, Preet Bharara, who’s pushing the sweeping insider trading probe of Wall Street, which all began with the Galleon investigation.
And “for many South Asian professionals in New York, the trial of Mr. Rajaratnam… has become a gripping drama involving some of the most admired names in the diaspora,” the New York Times reports.
Apart from Raj, these names include Rajat Gupta — the former head of McKinsey and a Goldman board member — and Anil Kumar, a Wharton graduate, McKinsey top dog and a protege of Gupta.
Rajiv Goel, a former Intel employee and Wharton graduate, testified against his former friend. A Morgan Stanley banker called Kamal Ahmed allegedly leaked tips on a 2006 merger deal, which was then passed on Raj — evidence used by the government during the trial.
Friends of those involved, like a man called Anand Julka who has known Rajat Gupta for years, said he’d been emailing back and forth with his old school friends from India about the goings on of the trial, and how it might adversely affect the reputation of and trust in their community.
The trial has prompted soul-searching in South Asian circles and a debate over whether it has evoked the kind of outrage and embarrassment that many Jews felt over the Bernard L. Madoff scandal.
Some fear that a guilty verdict would tarnish the growing number of South Asians on Wall Street. And others feel the case’s only cultural significance is as a signal that South Asians have risen high enough in finance — as in other realms of American life — to be enmeshed in a multimillion-dollar debacle.
A Columbia professor said that “anybody who says they’re not watching it has got to be lying, because the people involved are certainly the pillars of Indian society in the United States” and that there’s now a cloud hanging over the South Asian community here.
Others told the Times that the trial will make it hard for South Asians on boards or that are high-level executives, to gain the trust of colleagues.
But a reporter with the Press Trust of India said the story is less about South Asians than it is about business: “I don’t think it’s that big a deal. They’re part of the system, and they’re going to do bad things like other groups that do bad things.”