There has been much discussed and investigated case of Cognizant Chennai bribery that keeps creating news in India as well as USA. The bribery case was first reported in 2016, with allegations that Cognizant executives had bribed Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) and some other government officials to obtain various permits and approvals for construction of its campuses in Chennai and Pune. L&T was named as intermediary that was used to pay bribes. FBI in USA has been investigating the case and court trials were supposed to commence from 2nd October 2023. Whereas, in India a FIR was filed by DVAC (Directorate of Vigilance & Anti-Corruption of Govt of Tamil Nadu). During recent court disclosures in USA, it has come to light that Enforcement Directorate (ED) of Govt of India is also investigating the matter. If the disclosures at USA Court are to be believed ED seems to have saved India from a possible embarrassment position when a offender, would have left the country under the garb of being witness in USA. Ramamoorthy Srimanikandan, a former executive of Cognizant who was responsible for managing the company’s real estate projects in India is a co accused in India and was a Co-conspirator during FBI investigations in USA. Srimanikandan did an agreement with USA agencies to seek pardon in return of providing statements to help the USA investigators. Srimanikandan wanted to leave the country to act as witness for USA court trials.
In an recent article published by Global Investigation Review on 28th September 2023, it was reported that the trial of two former Cognizant executives accused of bribing Indian officials for permits to build a company campus was put on hold indefinitely during an emergency hearing held to address the fact that the government’s star witness recently gave his passport to Indian authorities, who are investigating him for the same bribery case. Srimanikandan Ramamoorthy, another former Cognizant executive previously responsible for managing the company’s real estate projects in India who the government hopes to call as a star witness, voluntarily surrendered his passport to Indian authorities days before his anticipated travel to the US, prosecutors wrote in a 28 September letter to US District Judge Kevin McNulty. Ramamoorthy received a request from India’s Directorate of Enforcement, the Indian Ministry of Finance Agency investigating him, to provide several documents that he did not possess on 22 September, the same day that he surrendered his passport, according to a letter prosecutors submitted to the judge on 27 September. The article continues to report that, prosecutor Sonali Patel said in a 27 September status hearing in Newark that, after speaking with the agency, her team learned Ramamoorthy had in fact received the requests months earlier and chose not to comply with them until a few days before his planned travel. Indian authorities had previously told the DOJ that they did not have an objection to Ramamoorthy travelling to the US to testify before cooperating with their investigation, Patel added, according to the transcript, but now that he has surrendered his passport they need to “obtain information” from him and “seek approval from up their chain” to return it. Patel informed that USA authorities are working with Indian officials to get Srimanikandan to USA, however she didn’t mention any details of authorities or procedures being followed between two countries to facilitate such an action. Counsels of both the accused facing trial made statements that DOJ and its star witness are not providing clarity and the trial must be conducted as planned. The judge has given time till 6th Oct 2023 to DOJ to provide clarity.
In the meantime, there is no new known action or media release by DVAC and ED, other than continuing with their planned investigations. It is surprising that DVAC has registered the main FIR in March 2023, however doesn’t seem to have raised any objection to Srimanikandan’s travel. Also, it surely remains a surprise that a possible crime taken place in India and among Indians is more of interest to USA. Even up to the extent that accused persons of India should not be available to India to investigate, rather made available to USA for their trials.