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NSE co-location scam: CBI looks into Seychelles trip of Chitra Ramkrishna & Anand Subramanian

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NSE co-location scam: CBI looks into Seychelles trip of Chitra Ramkrishna & Anand Subramanian

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'Unknown person had written to Ramkrishna on February 17, 2015,…keep bags ready, I am planning to travel to Seychelles next month, will try if you can come with me…,' the SEBI probe report had revealed.

NSE co-location scam: CBI looks into Seychelles trip of Chitra Ramkrishna & Anand Subramanian

The CBI is looking into former NSE CEO Chitra Ramkrishna and group operating officer Anand Subramanian's trip to tax havens Seychelles, officials said on March 11, as the agency continues its probe against them in the co-location scam. The agency believes that it was not an innocuous leisure trip and that it needs a thorough investigation, they said.

The Central Bureau of Investigation has also told the Special Court that Ramkrishna and Subramanian's trip to Seychelles is being looked into. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on February 11 had charged Ramkrishna and others with alleged governance lapses in the appointment of Subramanian as the chief strategic advisor and his re-designation as group operating officer and advisor to MD.

In its report, SEBI has also mentioned an email conversation of Ramkrishna with the "mysterious Yogi," suspected to be Subramanian, mentioning about a trip to Seychelles. "Unknown person had written to Ramkrishna on February 17, 2015,…keep bags ready, I am planning to travel to Seychelles next month, will try if you can come with me…," it said.

The agency, meanwhile, is focussing on retrieving the email exchanges between Ramkrishna and rigyajursama@outlook.com, they said. In its statement to SEBI, Ramkrishna had said the unknown person having email id rigyajursama@outlook.com was a 'Sidha-purusha' or 'paramhansa' who did not have a physical persona and could materialise at will.

The CBI probe is understood to have indicated that Subramanian had created the email id to communicate with Ramkrishna as the yogi. Most of these email exchanges were destroyed and the computer systems used to send these emails were scrapped after the exit of Ramkrishna in 2016, they said.

The CBI is likely to approach Microsoft, the service provider, to find out if these email exchanges can be retrieved to get a clearer picture, they said. The CBI, which was probing the co-location scam since 2018 against a Delhi-based stock broker, swung into action after a SEBI report showed alleged abuse of power by the then top brass of the NSE, the officials said.

The officials said the investigation is going on in the alleged role of the then senior NSE officials, who were looking into the co-location system, which is understood to have given "unfair advantage and wrongful gain" to certain stock brokers, including OPG securities, an accused in the case, at the cost of others. The officials said the co-location facility in NSE was a "major policy decision" in which the then MD and CEO and other senior officials would have played a decisive role.

The CBI probe has shown that Ramkrishna was appointed as joint MD in 2009 and remained in the position till March 31, 2013, with the power of DMD. Ramkrishna got elevated as MD and CEO on April 1, 2013 and left the bourse in 2016. It was during this period that the co-location facility was started by NSE, the CBI has alleged.

In the co-location facility offered by NSE, brokers could place their servers within the stock exchange premises, giving them faster access to the markets. It is alleged that some brokers, in connivance with insiders, abused the algorithm and the co-location facility to make windfall profits. The CBI has also found that Muralidharan Natarajan, the CTO of NSETECH (a subsidiary of NSE), who was responsible for setting up co-location architecture at the NSE, was directly reporting to Ramkrishna, officials said.

On February 25, the CBI had arrested Subramanian after expanding its probe into the co-location scam in the exchange following "fresh facts" in the SEBI report that referred to a mysterious yogi guiding the actions of Ramkrishna. Subramanian was allegedly referred to as the "yogi" in the forensic audit, but SEBI in its final report had rejected the claim.

Ramkrishna, who succeeded former CEO Ravi Narain in 2013, had appointed Subramanian as her advisor, who was later elevated as group operating officer (GOO) at a fat pay cheque of Rs 4.21 crore annually.

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