Desi vs. Desi: India’s Press on How Preet Bharara Got Rajat Gupta

The country looks with both shame and pride as one overseas Indian convicts another in a case that has shaken the U.S. financial industry.

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Richard Drew / AP; Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Rajat Gupta (L) and Preet Bharara.

The Indian press did not spare any ink on Saturday poring over the conviction of former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta in a federal court in Manhattan on Friday. Gupta, who one Indian newswire called “the one-time poster boy of Indian business in America,” was convicted on three counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy after a month-long trial.

The fact that Gupta’s conviction came at the hands of federal prosecutor Preet Bharara — an Indian American and the subject of a TIME cover story — did not go unnoticed either. Both are high-profile members of the South Asian community in New York, and have been pitted against one another since Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, brought charges against Gupta in October for feeding information to friend and business partner, Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam. In an article titled “Clash of the two Indian bigwigs”, the Press Trust of India wrote: “Mr Gupta’s conviction…will go down as a red letter day for Mr Bharara, who had on a couple of occasions sat quietly on the last bench of the courtroom and watched the proceedings against his fellow Indian.” (Bharara was inducted into the TIME 100, the magazine’s list of the most influential people in the world, this year.)

Bharara, who has been leading the Obama administration’s ongoing crackdown on insider trading, said in a statement released after the conviction that Gupta “once stood at the apex of the international business community. Today, he stands convicted of securities fraud. He achieved remarkable success and stature, but he threw it all away. Having fallen from respected insider to convicted inside trader, Mr. Gupta has now exchanged the lofty board room for the prospect of a lowly jail cell.”

Much of the coverage in India’s dailies read like an obituary, cataloging Gupta’s journey from being orphaned as a teenager in India to his rise to the top of Wall Street. (See the Economic Times timeline the “Rise and Fall of Rajat Gupta” here.) Born in Calcutta in 1948, Gupta’s parents died when he was 18. After studying engineering at IIT in Delhi, Gupta went on a scholarship to Harvard Business School and soon after settled into to work at McKinsey in the early 1970s. By 1994, he was appointed the first non-American-born managing editor of the firm, and 12 years later in 2006, he was appointed to the board of Goldman Sachs. He has also sat on the board of Proctor and Gamble and AMR, and served as an adviser to the United Nations.

Gupta is not without his supporters at home. A former McKinsey colleague created the website friendsofrajat.com to combat “the greatly unfair and incorrect caricature” of Gupta that it says has developed since the accusations against him first came to light last year. Several prominent members of the Indian business community, including Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, have signed a letter of support posted on the site. Friday’s verdict also came as a blow to many at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, one of the institutions that Gupta co-founded. Gupta stepped down as the school’s chairman in 2011 after the Securities and Exchange Commission started to take action on the allegations against him of insider trading. The current dean has openly expressed support for his former colleague. “Here is a man who has done incredibly amazing things for India, completely selflessly without wanting anything for it when he could have spent that same time making a lot of money for himself,” Ajit Rangnekar told the Indian Express.

A spokesman for the school told The Hindu that the outcome of the trial was “disappointing for all of us who have known Rajat.” But one student bluntly expressed the anxiety underlying the Indian media’s fixation on the story: “I am worried about his conviction because it dents not only ISB’s image but the country’s image as well.”

Members of the jury, while they found the evidence against Gupta conclusive, also indicated they felt he was a victim of the predatory hedge fund manager Rajaratnam, who is currently serving an 11-year sentence for securities fraud. “Gupta was a true friend,” juror Ronnie Sesso told reporters on Friday. “Raj was a snake in the grass.” Gupta, who has denied the charges, could face a prison term of up to 25 years. His defense attorney told reporters that they would move to have the verdict set aside or seek an appeal.

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