Former Cognizant Employee’s testimony in a bribery case in the US, may open Pandora’s box in India

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NEW DELHI: As recently reported in a prominent UK-based legal publication, Global Investigations Review, former Cognizant India’s real estate executive’s testimony in a bribery case may open Pandora’s box of corruption links between the IT company and government officials in India.

It is alleged that the Cognizant officials paid bribes to Indian government officials to the tune of Multi -million dollar, between 2014 and 2016, to obtain building and environmental clearances in Pune and Chennai.

As per the GIR report, Cognizant’s real estate executive in India, Sirmanikandan Ramamoorthy, is expected to be the U.S. government’s key witness in the trial of two former Cognizant executives who are accused of authorizing Ramamoorthy to pay one of the two bribes he is being investigated in India for.

Following the developments in the U.S., Ramamoorthy is facing at least two FIR investigations in India by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption in Chennai and Maharashtra for paying multiple bribes to government officials to obtain necessary permits for Cognizant real estate projects. In addition, Ramamoorthy appears to be under investigation by the Enforcement Directorate. And, as GIR writes, “In the Indian cities of Chennai and Pune, local police are expected to follow Srimanikandan Ramamoorthy’s evidence very closely.”

It is assumed that many years ago Ramamoorthy was given a non-prosecution agreement (NPA) by U.S. law enforcement officials in return for his cooperation and agreement to testify against his former colleagues in the upcoming trial, which will take place in September. If he did, this makes him an approver in the U.S. legal system, as opposed to a main accused in India. The GIR states, “[even if] Ramamoorthy has obtained an NPA, his legal troubles aren’t over. Reaching an NPA in the US doesn’t mean that a person can’t be charged in another country.”

Thus, Ramamoorthy’s testimony in the U.S. could very well amount to a direct confession to the crimes for which he is an accused in India and provide the very evidence that the local police in India need to charge him (and possibly others) with crimes in India. How’s that for irony and legal jeopardy?

The U.S. trial was supposed to take place in October of last year, but in a 23rd hour surprise just weeks before it was supposed to start, the U.S. government notified the court that Ramamoorthy would not be able to attend the trial because he had voluntarily surrendered his passport to Indian officials. The lawyers representing U.S. law enforcement therefore asked the judge overseeing the trail to delay its start – demonstrating the crucial nature of Ramamoorthy’s expected testimony.
But it is that critical nature of the testimony – in September, he will have to testify under oath in open court in the U.S. to his own crimes and the crimes of others who are currently accused under the FIRs.

The U.S. trial is scheduled to start on September 9. Will Ramamoorthy go to the U.S. to testify in this crucial matter? Will he return to India after the testimony, as he may face arrest in India soon after his return? Right now, only he knows. But stay tuned as it could lead to even more legal drama in Chennai and Pune in the months and years to come. Certainly, others implicated in the alleged scheme will be watching closely as Ramamoorthy’s testimony could also lead to them being arrested and charged as well.