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Who is Anand Subramanian? Red Herring or the Man Behind the Curtain in NSE Colocation Scam

By: Rohini Swamy

News18.com

Last Updated: July 07, 2022, 17:55 IST

Following three letters from the whistleblower, SEBI formed an expert committee under the guidance of its Technical Advisory Committee.

Following three letters from the whistleblower, SEBI formed an expert committee under the guidance of its Technical Advisory Committee.

CBI on Thursday opposed a bail petition of Anand Subramanian; market analysts say his arrest and the hunt for a mysterious Himalayan yogi is deflecting attention from the NSE colocation scam

Anand Subramanian, former NSE Group Operating Officer arrested by the CBI in a colocation scam, is just another “red herring”, stock market analysts who have been closely monitoring the developments told News18.com.

Anand Subramanian was arrested from Chennai on Thursday night after the CBI expanded its probe into the colocation scam at the National Stock Exchange following “fresh facts” in a SEBI report that referred to a mysterious Himalayan yogi guiding the actions of former CEO Chitra Ramkrishna.

CBI on Thursday opposed a bail petition of Anand Subramanian in connection with National Stock Exchange (NSE) co-location case and said economic offences constitute a class apart having deep-rooted conspiracies involving huge loss of public funds, affecting the economy of the country as a whole posing serious threat to the financial health of the country.

THE COLOCATION SCAM

Ramkrishna, who succeeded former CEO Ravi Narain in 2013, had appointed Subramanian as her advisor who was later elevated as Group Operating Officer (GOO) with a pay cheque of Rs 4.21 crore.

Subramanian’s controversial appointment and later elevation, besides crucial decisions, were guided by an unidentified person who Ramkrishna claimed was a formless mysterious yogi dwelling in the Himalayas, a probe into Ramkrishna’s email exchanges during a SEBI-ordered audit showed. It was alleged in an audit that Subramanian was the yogi, but SEBI dismissed that claim in its final report on February 11.

Ramakrishna left the NSE in December, 2016. On February 11, SEBI charged her and others with alleged governance lapses in the appointment of Subramanian as the chief strategic advisor and his re-designation as group operating officer and advisor to MD. The CBI, which was probing the co-location scam since 2018 against a Delhi-based stock broker, swung into action after the SEBI report that showed alleged abuse of power by the then top brass of the NSE.

ALSO READ | NSE Co-location Scam: Know How Chitra Ramakrishna-Himalyan Yogi Controversy Unfolded

The alleged scam relates to allegations that certain brokers received unfair preferential access to NSE servers. Stock prices on the trading screen keep changing every microsecond.

A whistle-blower in 2014-15 complained to the SEBI saying some brokers in collusion with a few top NSE officials had abused the co-location facility. NSE was then using the so-called tick-by-tick (TBT) server protocol to relay data to members.

The peculiar part about this protocol is how it delivers the information. Normal data protocols send data to all users connected on the network at the same time. But TBT transmits in the sequence of orders received. In other words, the user who gets the access to the system first would receive data earlier than the rest.

WHO IS ANAND SUBRAMANIAN?

“He is the smallest of smalls. He is not even a pawn in the game. He is just a red herring,” said MR Venkatesh, a senior advocate and chartered accountant based in Delhi.

Speaking to News18.com, Venkatesh said that the stories being spun around the involvement of a “Himalayan Yogi” who allegedly advised former NSE chief Chitra Ramakrishna, the arrest of Subramanian and the hunt for the faceless yogi is nothing but a way to deflect attention. “The real target should be the co-location scam. All this is just collateral damage. A way to distract everyone from the real issue,” he said.

Though little is known about the early life of Anand Subramanian, his rise and influence after Ramkrishna elevated him as her advisor and GOO at the NSE has been well documented by the SEBI order against the former NSE chief and five others.

The CBI probe into the co-location scam has also reportedly found Subramanian to be connected to Chitra Ramkrishna not just professionally, but also through family ties.

Those who have met Subramanian say he has always been a very discreet man. While many are now familiar with his name after the NSE controversy broke out, Subramanian’s history and rise to the top continues to be an enigma.

Recalling their first meeting with Subramanian, a Chennai-based senior investments consultant, who sought to remain anonymous, described him as a man who would stand out in a crowd.

“We have met a couple of times. Once I happened to see him at an NSE event in Chennai. The first thing that struck me was his dressing sense. He wore a smart formal suit along with lines of holy ashes across his forehead. That image was stuck in my head. I walked up to him and introduced myself, but his response was rather brusque,” he said.

“It is very surprising for us as to how a person like him is completely non-existent on social media, no trail of him or even a proper photograph,” he added.

A senior market analyst told News18.com that Subramanian was a “behind-the-scenes person”.

“We always felt that there was more to Anand Subramanian than just his role at NSE. He was more of a ‘behind the scenes’ person, one with strong control over what happening inside the NSE and interacted with only the powerful.”

The analyst described him as a “smooth and silent operator” — one who made it a point not to reveal that his spouse Sunitha Anand was heading NSE’s Chennai Regional Office for the period between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014.

“We were not aware that Subbu (as he was called in Chennai circles) was actually Sunita’s spouse. He would also not be seen in business parties or random events. His interactions with people is very limited and he is very selective about who he would speak to. Sometimes his behaviour bordered on arrogance,” said another Chennai-based stock market analyst.

Until 2013, Subramanian was working for a subsidiary of Balmer Lawrie as a mid-level executive with an annual compensation of Rs 15 lakh. In April 2013, Ramkrishna brought him in as Chief Strategic Advisor to MD with a hefty pay cheque of Rs 1.68 crore per annum, which by 2017 was hiked to Rs 4.21 crore, a compensation way above the pay grade.

His appointment by Ramkrishna was also done illegally without advertising or keeping the Human Resources department in the loop, as per the SEBI order. His wife Sunitha Anand was also in receipt of a “hefty salary”.

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first published:February 26, 2022, 10:59 IST
last updated:July 07, 2022, 17:55 IST