Explosive Twist in Cognizant Chennai Campus Bribery Trial: Trial Delayed as Key Indian Witness’ Passport Held by ED

Cognizant Chennai Campus Bribery Trial Delayed: The trial of two former Cognizant executives in a case involving bribery has recently been delayed by a U.S. judge because a crucial Indian witness cannot travel to the country. On October 3rd, the trial involving Steven Schwartz and Gordon Coburn, the former CEO of Cognizant, was scheduled to start.

Coburn and Schwartz are accused of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by allegedly paying a $2.5 million bribe to Indian officials in connection with Cognizant’s campus construction in Chennai. One of the key witnesses in the case, Srinivasan Ramamurthy, who had agreed to provide testimony for the U.S. government, is unable to travel to the United States because his passport is currently with the Indian Enforcement Directorate (ED).

Cognizant Chennai Campus Bribery Trial Delayed

The Enforcement Directorate of the Indian government is to blame for the delay in restoring Ramamurthy’s passport, according to a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice. Former Cognizant executive Ramamurthy, who oversaw the firm’s real estate initiatives in India, willingly gave up his passport before assisting the U.S. government with the investigation.

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“The government understands that as of at least May 2023, Mr. Ramamurthy’s role as a witness in the bribery scheme allegations is under investigation by the Indian government’s enforcement branch, the Enforcement Directorate,” the letter stated. On September 23, 2023, the government learned through Mr. Ramamurthy’s U.S. counsel that he had surrendered his passport to the Enforcement Directorate in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, on September 22, 2023. It was surprising to them because he was scheduled to be in the United States on September 24, 2023.

The letter claims that Ramamurthy has been asked to provide the ED with a number of papers that he purportedly does not have. The letter implies that the ED thinks Ramamurthy is not obedient to their wishes, and another meeting was held on September 25, 2023. According to the letter, ED representatives have informed Ramamurthy that they want him to cooperate with both Indian and American law enforcement, but American representatives are unable to forecast when Ramamurthy will have his passport back and be free to travel. It should be underlined that the Indian government and the US Department of Justice have not yet spoken.

An attorney for the U.S. DOJ told the court during a September 27, 2023 hearing in New Jersey, “Indian authorities have indicated to us that Mr. Ramamurthy had no objection to surrendering his passport before voluntarily cooperating with this investigation.” He traveled to the United States for the purpose of completing his cooperation in the investigation before surrendering his passport, but now that he has surrendered his passport, he will need to obtain approval from his chain of command before obtaining it back.”

However, the document does not clarify when Ramamurthy possessed his passport and when he did not. It is also unclear whether his passport was voluntarily handed over to the ED or not.

An attorney for the U.S. government has informed the court that they are in communication with Indian authorities to facilitate the return of Ramamurthy’s passport.

The court has allowed the trial to be postponed due to the delays caused by Ramamurthy’s absence as a witness. The judge stated that proceeding with the case without him would be “less accurate.”

“This poses a real risk to finding the truth here. And whether you believe Mr. Ramamurthy is a credible witness or you believe he’s not a credible witness, in any event, I think his absence is going to compromise this case,” the judge said.

The court mentioned that they would reconvene to determine when the trial could proceed. Source: Moneycontrol

I am Raj Verma, a Software Engineer, a content writer and Founder @TechAtPhone. I am enthusiastic for tech communities and ready to help freshers to get better job opportunities and to get recent knowledge about tech. Reach Out to me at: rajverma.contact@gmail.com