What if Ramalinga Raju walks out, Scotch free?

KONDAVEETI DONGA writes from Cyberabad (with tongue firmly in cheek): Any dongamama who masterminds a scam and other such adventures to look good in the eyes of the world knows that his (her?) luck will run out, later if not sooner.

When Byrajju Ramalinga Raju (in picture, right) was pressure-cooking the PowerPoint at Satyam™ over the years, he would have definitely known that the broth would brim over one day. But surely it is not unreasonable to presume that the Telugu bidda would have also drafted a plan to protect him if the shittulu hit the ceilingulu?

The belief that the disgraced entrepreneur must have had a survival plan stems from one small piece of trivia: Raju signed and sent his confessional letter on January 7 in electronic form. Yes, it is said to have come from his email ID but is that signature really Raju’s? Is there a hard-copy letter with SEBI, BSE or NSE? Will it stand the test of the long legal arm in a court of law?

Why this sudden doubtulu?

While he painted himself as an ‘honest guy’ while admitting to the fraud, taking all the blame on himself and subjecting himself to the law, it slowly turns out that, in the best traditions of cost-cutting in these recessionary times, l’il Raju was being economical with the truthulu.

He claimed that he took no money himself, now it is almost evident that he systematically siphoned off obscene amounts of cash, drawing the salaries of thousands of employees who only existed on his rolls. He claimed the money had not been diverted, but it turns out it was used to buy up land, etc.

So, if he lied about his people, what won’t he lie about?

Looking at the way the investigation is going about, it is reasonable to presume that the whole drama of the confession, the arrest, the stonewalling, etc, was predesigned to minimise the impact. And that he also has a water-tight survival plan in place to walk out, later if not sooner.

What it could be?

We can only speculate, with a couple of scotches tinkling in our drawing rooms (and with our tongue still firmly in our cheek).

Possibility 1: ‘Main na hoon

Have the police arrested the real Ramalinga Raju? How can we be so sure that it isn’t a a lookalike who has surrendered to the police? With all attention on the Fake Raju, could Original Ramalinga Raju be elsewhere, enjoying his biryani and pesarattu as it unfolds? This possibility isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. Several world leaders who feared a threat to their lives—Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein to name just two—were known to employ this ploy. What if some Telugu film producer or director, with their sophisticated sense of reality, has not done the needful and supplied a “double”?

Possibility 2: “Dubai se phone aaya

Can Raju claim that he never sent the letter and someone else did it by hacking into his account, or that someone else (the real estate/ land mafia, maybe; maybe politicians; maybe FIIs) coerced him? Since so much time has elapsed since the confession, is it impossible that critical documents have been destroyed, ensuring that investigating agencies fail to prove him guilty? Is everything all designed by his lawyers and clansmen to ensure he walks away scot-free? What if he says like the extortionist says in Ramgopal Varma‘s Satya: “Dubai se phone aaya.”

Possibility 3: All in the family

What if the Raju clan converges this Sunday afternoon for a gunta ponganalu brunch and decides enough is enough, the family name is being besmirched, and  decrees that the 70 top Rajus in Andhra Pradesh shall each write a cheque for Rs 100 crore each to rescue one of their own? Or else. Or if all the seven crore Telugus across the world, chip in with Rs 1,000 each against which they will be issued tea sops that can be encashed at a future date in the Satyam canteen? Or else.

Of course, the best case scenario is that Raju will be proved guilty, that he will pay a fine of Rs 21 crore and spend 7-10 years in jail in repentence for what he did. Maybe, if his behaviour is good, or his (genuine) doctor finds some serious ailment, the term could be cut short by a few years. Since maavadu is just 54, there will be a few years to enjoy the remainder of his life.

What do you think? What excuses and alibis could the conman and his lawyers come up with?

By the way, if Mohammed Ajmal Kasab should not get a lawyer for having gunned down a few in VT on November 26, should Ramalinga Raju get a lawyer (or 22) for having taken hundreds of clients, thousands of employees, and millions of shareholders for a ride?

Just kidding.

Happy Republic Day.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu Business Line