In his first interview since his arrest more than two years ago, Raj Rajaratnam butted heads with prosecutors once more.
The Galleon Group founder, convicted earlier this year of counts of insider-trading and this month sentenced to 11 years in prison, told Newsweek that he wasn't the biggest fish sought by the government and that, from the day of his arrest until two weeks before his sentencing, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department sought to do a deal with him.
According to Rajaratnam, both at the time of his arrest and this month, prosecutors offered him leniency in exchange for his cooperation against Rajat Gupta, the former McKinsey & Co. head who allegedly provided Rajaratnam with inside information about Goldman Sachs, on whose board he served. But Rajaratnam said he couldn't turn on his longtime friend.
"Anil Kumar's son worked at Galleon one summer. I used to vacation with Rajiv Goel's family," Rajaratnam said, referring to two of the former friends who turned state's evidence against him. "Their familiar knew my family. You don't think this is going to haunt these guys?"
"They wanted me to plea bargain. They wanted to get Rajat. I am not going to do what people did to me. Rajat has four daughters."
Rajaratnam added that he understood that, had he cooperated, he might have been sentenced to just five years in prison.
But, according to the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, "a number of his assertions are inaccurate." The prosecutor's office did not elaborate on which of Rajaratnam's assertions it took issue with.
Rajaratnam actually had little if anything critical to say about the prosecutors, saying, "I got my shot. The American justice system is by and large fair."
Instead, the former billionaire reserved most of his ire for the men whose testimony and cooperation with the government put him in jail.
"There are two types of plea bargains," Rajaratnam said. "One is, you cooperate with the government. You finger 10 other people. The other is a plea bargain without cooperation."
But while the white defendants in the case all took the second route, "the South Asians all did the bargain with fingering. The Americans stood their ground. Every bloody Indian cooperated—Goel, Khan, Kumar."
Indeed, Rajaratnam, a Sri Lankan by birth, has little good to say about his former partners from India. Speaking about the Indian School of Business, founded by Gupta and Kumar, he said, "I gave them a million dollars. I later found our they never contributed any of their money, and are listed as the school's founders. And I'm not even an Indian."
"I did not think a senior partner of McKinsey would violate the confidentiality of McKinsey," he said. "I assumed he was kosher, that he would not cross the line."
Rajaratnam did take issue with the FBI agents who arrested and questioned him back in October of 2009. The arresting agent, B.J. Kang, told him to "take a good look at your son. You're not going to see him for a long time," Rajaratnam said. He also accused Kang of saying that Rajaratnam's wife "doesn't seem so upset" because "she's going to spend all of your money."
Rajaratnam also said that, during his eight-hour interrogation, the FBI agents brandished their weapons and sought to play "good cop, bad cop" with him.
"In my head I was saying, 'You can't intimidate me! I'm from Sri Lanka," Rajaratnam said.
An FBI spokesman told Bloomberg News that the quotes Rajaratnam attributed to Kang and other agents "were never uttered."
In the interview, Rajaratnam also offered a glimpse into why he refused to take the government's deal. While he rejects his brother's belief that South Asians were being unfairly targeted—"I don't believe in conspiracy theories"—he did believe, at least a little, in Sri Lankan fortune-telling, ola-leaf reading.
"I don't generally believe in fortune tellers and astrologers," Rajaratnam said. "But the ola leaves were written thousands of years ago. In those days there was not share business. I found it interesting."
According to Rajaratnam, the astrologer predicted that there was a government case against him, that he was involved in stock-trading and that he had had to close down his firm, all true. He also predicted that Rajaratnam would be acquitted.
Despite that having proved incorrect, Rajaratnam said he wouldn't change much about his approach save for one thing.
"I'd probably not be so trusting of people." (Source: FINalternatives)