Do not forget Gupta philanthropic work: friends

New York: As the high-profile insider trading trial of former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta enters its third week, the Indian-American`s prominent friends feel he has been portrayed in an "unfair and one-sided" manner and his philanthropic work in India should not be forgotten.

63-year-old Gupta`s trial, which began in Manhattan federal court on May 21, will resume today after a weekend break with his protege and former McKinsey executive Anil Kumar returning to the witness stand to testify against him.

Last week, Kumar had told jurors he had worked closely with Gupta in 1997 to set up the Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad. Gupta, in March last year, had resigned as chairman of ISB`s executive board after the Securities and Exchange Commission initiated an administrative action against him on insider trading charges.

As Gupta fights the charges of securities fraud in a closely watched trial, ISB Dean Ajit Rangnekar has voiced support for the prestigious school`s co-founder saying it has been "very difficult" for those who have known Gupta to "understand" and come to terms with the charges and allegations against him.

Rangnekar`s name is among a list of 20 witnesses, who could testify for him in the trial, submitted in court by Gupta`s defence team. "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," Rangnekar told PTI here.

The ISB dean said several of Gupta`s friends feel that a "very one-sided and unfair depiction" of him has been made in the case so far. "No due recognition has been made for the immense good he has done in India," he said adding that the work Gupta has done in fields of education, health and urbanisation should also be recognised and given equal prominence just as the charges against him have been highlighted.

"A person should be presumed innocent till proven guilty but Gupta`s achievements are real achievements," Rangnekar, currently on a visit to the city, said.

Rangnekar said Gupta`s supporters would have to wait for the verdict by the jury and the judge but they would always remain "extremely grateful" to him for the "wonderful" work he has done. "We are immensely proud and grateful to him for everything he has done," Rangnekar said.

Gupta has denied passing any confidential company information he received in his capacity as board member of Goldman Sachs and Proctor and Gamble to hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam, who is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence after being convicted of insider trading charges last year.

India`s former Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor, who has also known Gupta, said the accomplishments of the ex-McKinsey head "cannot be taken away even if he has made a mistake."

"I still believe in his innocence," Tharoor, a Member of Parliament, said adding that one would have to wait for the decision by the court.

Tharoor said Indian-Americans have "arrived in every respect" in the US and some of them are now also responsible for enforcing the law, a reference to the top US prosecutor in Manhattan India-born Preet Bharara.

Bharara is leading the government`s crackdown on insider trading and has netted big Wall Street names like Gupta and one time billionaire hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam on charges of financial fraud. "We should see this (Gupta`s case) as an indication of the extent to which we are seeing the Indian-American community fully engaged in all aspects of American life, for good or for bad," Tharoor added.

Prominent Indian-American entrepreneur Sabeer Bhatia, who co-founded the Hotmail email service, described Gupta as a "personal friend" and "wonderful human being" who has always helped those who came his way.

Bhatia said Gupta has done a lot of good work ever since he began his career in McKinsey in 1973, including setting up ISB, and the insider trading case depicts an instance of an "error in his judgement."

Rakesh Kaul, who has known Gupta since he was a student at IIT Delhi in 1971, said that the charges and government`s evidence against him are "much ado about nothing."

Kaul, among the few supporters who have been attending Gupta`s trial, said it seems "very far fetched" that a person like Gupta, who has lived a life of integrity should suddenly at the age of 63 fall prey to the type of allegations that are being made. Atul Kanagat, a former McKinsey principal, said Gupta is being targetted not for what he has done but for "who he is."

Kanagat, who has known Gupta since 1987, has been regularly attending the trial, sitting behind Gupta`s wife and daughters in the courtroom and occasionally talking to his former McKinsey colleague during breaks in the court`s proceedings. Kanagat has also created the website `friendsofrajat` to garner support for Gupta.

Many prominent Indian business leaders, including Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani and Godrej Group chairman Adi Godrej have expressed their support for Gupta, posting letters and words of admiration for him on the website.

Kanagat has maintained throughout that there is no direct evidence against Gupta of any wrongdoing but the "government likes bringing big people down." He added that there are people who have "ulterior motives" and are "piling" onto the case to malign Gupta.