The CBI on Thursday filed a chargesheet against former CEO and MD of National Stock Exchange (NSE) Chitra Ramkrishna and former NSE COO Anand Subramanian in connection with its case related to manipulation of the bourse.
“A chargesheet has been filed against the two and further investigation in the case continues,” a CBI official said.
CBI had arrested Subramanian and Ramkrishna in connection with the case in February and March respectively. The case was registered by the CBI in 2018, but action against Chitra and Subramanian followed a report of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) that indicted Ramkrishna for illegal appointment of Subramanian and for allegedly sharing confidential information related to the bourse with a “Himalayan Yogi”.
On February 11, Ramkrishna was fined Rs 3 crore by SEBI for allegedly violating rules in the appointment of Subramanian. According to SEBI, several key decisions taken by Ramkrishna during her tenure as NSE’s MD and CEO from 2013 to 2016, including Subramanian’s appointment, were guided by an unidentified yogi “who may be largely dwelling in the Himalayan Ranges”.
Investigating agencies have not yet established the yogi’s real identity although an Ernst and Young audit report indicated that he may allegedly be none other than Subramanian himself.
The CBI’s case, however, pertains to charges of brokers being given preferential access to the NSE’s trading system in the form of a co-location facility through which they bought “rack space” for their servers. According to the agency, these traders obtained faster access to the Exchange’s data feed.
The CBI has booked Sanjay Gupta, the owner and promoter of Delhi-based OPG Securities Pvt Ltd, and others in the case.
According to the CBI, between 2010 and 2014, Gupta allegedly “abused” the NSE server architecture in a criminal conspiracy with officials from the Exchange. “…unknown officials of NSE gave OPG Securities Pvt Ltd access to servers which were technologically latest and least crowded at that particular period. This helped OPG Securities Pvt Ltd. in being mostly the first one to log in on the exchange server of the NSE,” the CBI’s FIR said.
The allegations of unfair access were first made by a whistleblower in January 2015. The whistleblower wrote to Sebi, alleging that a few brokers were able to log into the NSE system with better hardware specifications while engaging in algorithmic trading, to their unfair advantage. Algorithmic trading, or “algo” in market parlance, refers to orders generated at superfast speed by the use of advanced mathematical models that involve automated execution of trade.
A technical advisory committee report by the Sebi later found OPG Securities had consistently logged in first on selected TBT (tick-by-tick) servers on most trading days in 2010-2014, and also had access to servers that had better hardware. At this point, Gupta is alleged to have bribed Sebi officials for a favourable order in its enquiry.
Ramkrishna was MD and CEO of NSE from April 2013 to December 2016, while Narain held that post from April 1994 till March 2013.
Earlier this month, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) carried out searches at nine locations across Delhi and Gurgaon in connection with its money laundering probe into the alleged manipulation of the bourse when Ramkrishna was heading it. The raids were carried out at premises associated with some NSE brokers, including OPG Securities. The ED case is based on the CBI FIR.