In 1997, Sri Lankan-American Raj Rajaratnam founded the Galleon Group in the US. It became one of the largest hedge funds in the world with over US$ 7 billion under management. But its manager fell prey to the perils of unchecked prosecutorial overreach.

Rajaratnam was the victim of a false narrative concocted by ambitious US prosecutors looking for a scapegoat for the 2007-8 financial crisis. But he trusted the system stateside and expected a fair trial.

He had not anticipated prosecutorial override – with FBI fabrications, judicial compliance and lies being told under oath by cooperating witnesses who were threatened by the authorities, he claims.

Rajaratnam rejected overtures and refused to plead guilty. He decided to fight the charges – mainly those of insider trading. Upon conviction, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison, of which he served seven and a half due to the vagaries of the US justice system. This is his story.

Born in Sri Lanka, Rajaratnam was a fighter. When a bully in his neighbourhood began beating him up, he retaliated by throwing the contents of a packet of chilli powder in the bully’s face. That was the end of the bullying; but after that, Rajaratnam always carried a packet of chilli powder in his pocket.

After becoming an undergraduate in engineering at the University of Sussex, he received an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He spent two years at Chase Manhattan Bank and then joined investment outfit Needham as a tech analyst.

He rose up the ladder rapidly. By 35, he was president of the firm. In 1997, he resigned to establish the Galleon Group.

Later, Rajaratnam was aghast at the array of false information against him and ‘facts’ invented by prosecutors to corroborate their narrative. His legal fees are believed to have been almost a million dollars but he would not admit to any wrongdoing because there was none.

The prosecutors were ‘clueless’ about insider trading but remained interested in a case that would propel them into the limelight. They even hired a PR firm to assist them in their endeavours. Rajaratnam was convicted and given parole after seven and a half years. While in jail, he wrote this damning book, which exposes the hypocrisy of the US’ judicial system.

As an honourable man who believed in doing what was right, he wound up his firm before the trial and returned all the money that investors had given him. There was no need to do so legally, and he could have taken his time about it; but honour and trust were too important.

He maintains that a vast majority of those who work for the US’ Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI are people of integrity. His book is an attempt to shed light on the corrupt few who act with impunity. They think little of the consequences of the actions they take in furthering their career ambitions.

The author pulls no punches about the media idolatry of publicity hungry and ambitious US Attorney Preet Bharara, considered the ‘Sheriff of Wall Street,’ who rode into battle against Galleon’s boss. Helping him was FBI agent B. J. Kang, who falsified documents leading to Rajaratnam’s arrest.

The CEO of Galleon describes US media as an overzealous press feasting on a human story and preventing the assembly of an impartial jury by the time of trial. He says these three entities – the DOJ, FBI and media – bore down in a concerted campaign to make him the face of the financial crisis. Incredibly, not a single major bank was held accountable for the 2008-9 global meltdown.

“In the middle of a financial crisis that brought a multi-trillion dollar world economy to its knees, these three institutions independently and collectively targeted a tiny slice of the US financial industry: hedge funds. And honed in on a single fund – Galleon – and isolated only me, its CEO, who had recently become one of the few immigrants on Wall Street to be identified as a billionaire,” he recounts, in anger.

Rajaratnam contends that Bharara, who was the US Attorney of New York at the time, used his prosecution to launch an unprecedented press campaign to promote himself. Time magazine put Bharara on its cover stating ‘This Man Is Busting Wall Street.’

The author points out Bharara’s impotent approach to not prosecuting criminal activities on Wall Street. They range from mortgage bankers such as Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers to the alleged money laundering of drug cartels by HSBC, and encouraging tax evasion by US citizens by UBS and CSFB. These firms settled civil charges by paying billions of dollars using shareholder money. But not a single person was individually fined.