The former chief executive of India’s National Stock Exchange has been arrested, officials said Monday, in a bizarre corporate misgovernance scandal featuring a supposed Himalayan yogi.
Chitra Ramkrishna — a high-flying executive once feted as India’s “queen of the bourse” — allegedly took business advice from a mystic throughout her 2013-2016 tenure at one of the world’s largest derivatives exchanges.
She was detained by the Central Bureau of Investigation, India’s equivalent of the FBI, in Delhi late Sunday, a senior officer told AFP.
Spiritual leaders and “godmen” have long enjoyed vast followings in India and the business world is no exception in the highly religious nation of 1.4 billion people.
A 190-page report released by regulators last month revealed damning details of how Ramkrishna, 59, shared sensitive information with a spiritual adviser she supposedly met by the River Ganges.
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The former boss of India’s largest stock exchange “had abdicated all her powers to the unknown person” and “was merely a puppet in his hands”, regulators said in the report, without identifying the yogi.
Last month, federal police arrested Ramkrishna’s former protege Anand Subramanian, whom she hired and later promoted on an astronomical salary — despite him having no relevant experience — allegedly on the advice of the yogi.
The scandal began in 2015 with allegations of market manipulation, with brokers said to have been given preferential access to the bourse.
Both executives resigned from the National Stock Exchange the following year.
NSE’s own board concluded on the basis of an E&Y forensic audit that Subramanian had in fact invented the yogi to manipulate Ramkrishna for personal gain.
The CEO maintained in her statements to the markets regulator that her adviser was a “spiritual force” and their informal interactions were akin to those with a coach or mentor.
The yogi “would manifest at will and I did not have any locational coordinates”, she told officials. “Accordingly, he gave me an (email) ID to which I could send my requests.”
Emails uncovered in the probe show the yogi proposed meetings in the Seychelles, one of several tax havens including Singapore and Mauritius where investigators are probing possible tax evasion.
A special lift was reserved for Ramkrishna and Subramanian at the NSE and a dedicated team ensured he had separate hand towels and soap dispensers in the toilet, according to press reports.
Both former executives are barred by authorities from leaving India or accessing financial markets.