We talk about corruption in India, of sycophancy, of using influence. We are ready to take those who commit financial irregularities to court. This is as it should be.
After the farce of the 'Friends of Rajat Gupta' cabal, it seems to be the turn of the international frat boys club to come forward to support Gupta, who is being tried for insider trading. In what is a clear case of pushing in his favour, many prominent people have asked the judge in the US to show fairness. This is extremely insulting to the judiciary as well as being ridiculous and arrogant. According to a report:
Microsoft Corp co-founder Gates, in one letter among about 200 written to US district judge Jed Rakoff, wrote that he wanted to help “round out Rajat’s profile as you consider the appropriate sentence for him.”
The judge would know his job, but Gates has got his reasons. Those not blinded by his philanthropy would understand how these things work. The report says that when Gupta chaired the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Gates became acquainted with him. Is this reason enough for him to have the temerity to write that “many millions of people are leading better lives -- or are alive at all -- thanks to the efforts he so ably supported”?
I do know of hardened criminals who help social causes -- to make use of tax benefits, or to appease their guilt, or because they truly believe in giving. Does it take away from the crimes they commit? Millions of people benefit from employment in the mafia and with underworld gangs. In times of recession, this is probably crucial to their existence. Will anyone be permitted to speak up for these gang leaders?
Bill Gates' Foundation, its good work notwithstanding, is only one among the many that support the underprivileged. Several NGOs and international agencies too work relentlessly for these causes without as much fanfare. The attitude of, "Look, we save lives" is not only half the story; it does not give those who offer financial assistance the right to believe they can be absolved of anything else they do that is suspect or anti-social.
The world cannot be held accountable to Wall Street.
The timing of the letters is disconcerting because it is close to the date of the final court verdict and also the US elections. Well-known industrialists and academics are not the only ones to have pitched in with their bludgeoning tactics garbed as good wishes.
Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan has written to the judge:
“I urge you to recognize Rajat for the good he has done in the world, to give him the credit that he deserves for helping others and to take into account his efforts to improve the lives of millions of people.”
Perhaps, these people do not realise that insider trading is not only about a few million bucks shared between friends. The ramifications have a trickle-down effect that pinches everybody in the long run, and that is precisely what has happened to the US economy, that snowballed and reached half the world.
This selfish bunch has no ethical right of talking down to the beneficiaries of their wealth simply because of who they are. It is such bluster that makes one wonder about their intentions.
I was told that the American justice system in matters of financial scrutiny is above-board. It would be prudent for the court to call upon Bill Gates and Kofi Annan, and whoever else has written to them, to appear as wtinesses providing evidence that Rajat Gupta is not guilty of insider trading, for which he is being tried. He can sing lullabies, put in dollars in donation boxes, and make the world a better place from his room with a view. That is not what the case is about.
He may well be let off, and his friends can then celebrate with bubbly and talk of saving the lives of millions. Until then, it would help if they stayed away from matters they have chosen to ignore.
(c) Farzana Versey