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Mail trail, screenshots — why CBI suspects Anand Subramanian was ‘faceless yogi’ of NSE saga

Former NSE group operating officer Anand Subramanian was arrested in Chennai Friday and brought to Delhi for questioning. He will be in CBI's custody till 6 March.

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New Delhi: The CBI suspects that Anand Subramanian, the former group operating officer (COO) of the National Stock Exchange (NSE), was operating as the “faceless yogi” who allegedly influenced the decisions of former NSE chief Chitra Ramkrishna, sources in the agency said.

According to sources, the agency has “a mail trail, some screenshots, and critical evidence”, based on which it suspects it was Subramanian who was acting as the yogi and communicating with Ramkrishna. 

Subramanian has been on the radar of suspicion as the “faceless yogi” since reports of this shocking NSE saga first emerged. He was arrested from Chennai Friday after being questioned for four days, and was brought to the agency’s headquarters in Delhi. He will be in CBI custody till 6 March, sources said.

Subramanian was first appointed as chief strategic adviser at the NSE in 2013, and Ramkrishna promoted him to group operating officer in 2015.

The market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), had pointed out in a report earlier this month that the appointment of Subramanian was one of the decisions that Chitra Ramkrishna took under the so-called yogi’s influence.

“We strongly suspect that it was Subramanian who had created that email ID — — on which Ramkrishna was in touch with the ‘yogi’,” a source said. According to the source, Ramkrishna used the email address to share confidential information related to the NSE with the ‘yogi’ between 2013 and 2016, and to seek his “advice” on several matters, including appointments.

“After his arrest in Chennai, he was brought to Delhi and was produced in court. The court granted us his custody till 6 March. During the custody, he will be confronted with the evidence that we have collected in the past few days,” the source in the CBI said.

Also read: NSE’s ex-CEO Chitra Ramkrishna — ‘queen’ of stock markets who invested in blind faith & lost

‘Screenshots, emails marked to self’

According to the source, the investigating officers scanned a large amount of data and found that some of the emails that Ramkrishna had sent to the ‘yogi’ had also been forwarded to one of Subramanian’s IDs.

The investigators suspect that Subramanian forwarded those emails to himself to keep a record. Moreover, the investigators, while scanning the data recovered from Subramanian, have allegedly come across “screenshots” showing conversations between Ramkrishna and the ‘yogi’.

“He will be confronted with all the evidence that we have gathered. He has so far not been cooperating in the investigation and has denied having been involved,” the source said.

CBI’s case

The CBI’s case, in which Subramanian has now been arrested and Ramkrishna and her predecessor, Ravi Narain, have been questioned, was registered in 2018, in relation to a “co-location” scam.

Unknown officials of the NSE and SEBI had allegedly helped a company gain preferential access to the NSE’s servers.

The FIR has been expanded and the lens has now fallen on Ramkrishna and Subramanian in light of the new revelations by SEBI.

The CBI received information that, from 2010 to 2014, Sanjay Gupta, owner and promoter of M/s OPG Securities Pvt Ltd, allegedly abused the NSE’s server architecture in a criminal conspiracy with unknown stock exchange officials. 

According to the information, Gupta, with the help of his brother-in-law Aman Kokrady and other unknown persons, got the NSE’s data centre staff to pass on information about when the exchange servers would be switched on. 

It was also alleged that unknown officials of the NSE gave OPG Securities access to whichever servers were technologically the latest and least crowded at any point in time. This helped the company to ensure that it was usually the first to log in to the exchange servers.

“It was alleged that Gupta had unfair access to co-location facility of the NSE between 2010 and 2014, which enabled his company, OPG Security Pvt Ltd, to log in first to the secondary server and get the data before everyone else, which allowed faster access to the data feed of NSE. Even a split-second faster access is considered to result in huge gains for any stock trader,” the CBI source said.

“It was alleged that the favour shown by unknown officials of the NSE to OPG Securities Pvt Ltd by providing market feed first in comparison to other brokers resulted in wrongful gain to OPG Securities Pvt Ltd, and wrongful loss to other brokers/ investors,” added the source.

Upon receiving the complaints about OPG Securities, SEBl conducted an inquiry and, according to its technical advisory committee (TAC) report, OPG Securities gained materially by exploiting the NSE, the source said.

It was also alleged that in order to ensure a favourable report from SEBl in the ongoing inquiry, Gupta “fraudulently influenced the officials of SEBl, for which bribe money was exchanged”.

Also read: Full text of controversial NSE email exchanges between Chitra Ramkrishna and ‘faceless yogi’

SEBI reports

In 2018, SEBI shared a report with the CBI regarding the alleged “co-location” fraud, and disallowed term extensions for members of the NSE’s board. 

In this report, SEBI had also raised questions about Subramanian’s appointment and “frequent hikes in his salary”.

SEBI has now charged Ramkrishna and others with alleged governance lapses in the appointment of Subramanian. Ramkrishna and Subramanian have been fined Rs 2 crore each.

According to the regulator’s report earlier this month, Ramkrishna hired Subramanian as the bourse’s CSO in 2013 at a remuneration package of Rs 1.38 crore, over nine times his previous compensation of Rs 15 lakh at state-owned Balmer Lawrie. The post of CSO did not exist before Subramanian’s appointment, and he didn’t have the required qualifications for such a position, the report said. 

All these decisions were reportedly made on the instructions of a faceless ‘yogi’. 

In her submissions to SEBI on whether sharing such information is against the principles of governance, Ramkrishna said: “As we know, senior leaders often seek informal counsel from coaches, mentors or other seniors in this industry which are all purely informal in nature. In a similar strain, I felt that this guidance would help me perform my role better.”

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)

 Also read: Skeletons tumble out of NSE in Yogi saga: Fat fingers, flash crash, algo trades


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