A US court has declared former Satyam Computers chairman Ramalinga Raju, who last year was jailed after admitting to falsifying his company's accounts by over $1 billion, a pauper, thereby exempting him from paying court costs.
Besides Raju, New York judge Barbara S Jones also approved 'pauper' status for his brother Rama Raju, Satyam's former chief executive officer, and Srinivas Vadlamani, the company's former head of finance. In October 2009, the three men had filed for an "in forma pauperis" - in the character or manner of a pauper - designation given to someone who is without the funds to pursue the normal costs of a lawsuit or a criminal defence.
According to court documents, the accused stated they are "unable to engage an attorney in the US to defend (themselves) in the class action litigation and to pay any court fees or to meet any financial obligations which might be imposed by this court". "The court finds that defendants have adequately demonstrated that they are unable to pay costs as described in the federal law," US District Judge Jones said in her order on Wednesday.
The judge however denied the request for a pro bono counsel as the "defendants are incarcerated in a foreign country and it would be unusually difficult for the appointed counsel to meet and otherwise competently represent Defendants under the circumstances".
On January 7 last year, Raju, 55, admitted that Satyam's accounts had been inflated by over $1 billion, in what became India's largest corporate scandal. In November, the CBI said that fraud was 40 per cent larger than originally estimated.
"It was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten," he had said, after the scandal broke. The IT company has since been taken over by Tech Mahindra.