Rajaratnam was just kidding, say lawyers

Cross examining Goel, a key prosecution witness in the biggest US insider trading case in a New York court on Thursday, defence lawyer Terence Lyman portrayed the Sri Lankan-born Galleon hedge fund co-founder as a jokester often kidding friends.

The defence presented the jury with documents, including personal e-mails, to show that the two former pals had “jokey” relationship — and their “chit chat” about Intel was often part of the joke, Lyman said.

“Didn’t he sometimes kid you that Intel was a crummy company and he would never buy stock in Intel?” Lyman asked Goel, who pleaded guilty last year to feeding Rajaratnam confidential information about Intel and is cooperating with prosecutors. After Goel confirmed this was true, Lyman said Rajaratnam was also joking about having once given BMWs to the women who had access to Intel’s sales information.

“I don’t think that was a joke, sir. I heard him,” Goel said. Lyman also tried to raise doubts by saying the two pals had a “contest” between them to see who could best guess Intel’s financial status — something Goel denied.

Lyman countered the denial by referencing a wiretapped conversation in which Rajaratnam tells Goel that when he sees him next he will give Goel a “kiss on the cheek.” Lyman asked Goel if Rajaratnam was joking. “I hope he was, otherwise I have him figured out all wrong,” Goel said.

Meanwhile, Anil Kumar, another Indian American witness, told the court he was “terrified” after Rajaratnam sent him confidential documents from Intel when he was providing consulting services for Intel’s rival, Advanced Micro Devices.

On two occasions around 2005, Rajaratnam sent Former McKinsey & Co director Kumar slides of Intel documents with the company’s plans for the coming year.

Rajaratnam didn’t say where he got the Intel documents, Kumar said. Prosecutors previously said Rajaratnam had sources inside Intel including Rajiv Goel. “He said, I know you’re working at AMD-these might help,” Kumar said, recounting Rajaratnam’s message to him.

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