Rajat Gupta's daughter, school friends take witness stand

A day after former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta notified the court that he will not testify in his own defence, his eldest daughter and close friends took the witness stand on his behalf in the high-profile insider trading trial here.

New York: A day after former Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta notified the court that he will not testify in his own defence, his eldest daughter and close friends took the witness stand on his behalf in the high-profile insider trading trial here.

The defence yesterday presented in Manhattan federal court character witnesses, who testified about Gupta's honesty and integrity, before it prepares to wrap its case by tomorrow. Closing arguments in the trial, which is running in its fourth week, will be made tomorrow.

Gupta's 33-year-old daughter Geetanjali, the last to take the witness stand yesterday, told the jury in a confident voice that she had studied law and management at Harvard and currently works for the Harvard Management Company.

She has been regularly attending her father's trial, sitting with her mother and three sisters in the spectators' bench right behind Gupta, who sometimes turns and leans back to talk to his family during breaks in the court proceedings.

As Geetanjali walked up to the witness stand, Gupta's gaze followed her. However, her testimony was interrupted by the prosecution which raised an objection when Gupta's lawyer Gary Naftalis began questioning her about a September 2008 conversation she had with her father regarding his investment with Galleon hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam.

Due to a lengthy discussion between the judge and attorneys over the objection, the jury was dismissed for the day and the testimony of Geetanjali, a mother of two-year-old twin girls, will resume later today.

Gupta's lawyer, who had said last week it was "highly likely" that he will testify in his defense, conveyed to the judge on Sunday that his client will not take the witness stand "after substantial reflection and consideration."

If convicted 63-year-old Gupta, who served on boards of various companies, faces up to 25 years in prison.

The former McKinsey head is accused of breaching his fiduciary duties by passing secret corporate information to Rajaratnam, who is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence.

Earlier, three long-time friends of Gupta took the stand as character witnesses.

Ashok Alexander, an IIM alumnus and former McKinsey executive, had travelled from India specifically to testify at Gupta's trial.

Gupta has been a "friend, mentor and occasional coach. As a person he is very direct, forthright, transparent with the highest level of honesty," said 58-year-old Alexander, who is the country manager for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in New Delhi.

Describing Gupta as a "role model", Alexander said he has known him for about 26 years and has worked with him in different contexts, including with the public health foundation of India.

Next to take the witness stand was 62-year-old Harvard Business School alumnus Anil Sood, who told the jury he has known Gupta for 53 years, since the time the two were classmates in the fifth grade in a New Delhi school.

The two then went on to study at the same engineering school in the Indian capital.

"I have admired Gupta since my childhood. He is very straightforward, honest, truthful and inspires trust and confidence," said Sood, who was an official with the World Bank for 30 years and had worked with the United Nations Development programme in Africa.

"I have seen him consistently demonstrate these values."

On cross-examination, prosecutor Reed Brodsky asked the defense witnesses if they had any knowledge of investments or business dealings that Gupta had had with Rajaratnam to which they replied in the negative.

Rakoff had instructed Gupta's team that only six character witnesses can be presented even though Naftalis had submitted a long list of people who would have spoken about his philanthropy and charitable work in the field of HIV-AIDS and malaria eradication.

Another witness, 34-year-old Suprotik Basu told the jury that he met Gupta in May 2007.

Basu, who worked for the UN Secretary-General's special envoy for malaria since January 2008, recalled receiving "an urgent call about a businessman who wanted to end all childhood deaths from malaria by 2025," referring to Gupta.

"I consider Rajat to be one of the most honest, forthright and giving gentlemen that I know," Basu told jurors.

Basu also told the jury about Gupta's calendar on September 23, 2008, a day which prosecutors say Gupta tipped off Rajaratnam about Berkshire Hathaway's USD 5 billion investment in Goldman after he got off from the banking giant's board meeting.

According to the calendar entries, Gupta participated in the Goldman board call for about a half-hour beginning at 3:15 p.M.

Naftalis then highlighted meetings that Basu had with Gupta after the Goldman call, including a conference with Julian Schweitzer, the World Bank's head of health nutrition, and Raymond Chambers, the UN special envoy for malaria in Basu's offices in Manhattan between 5 p.M. To 5:45 p.M.

Basu had then accompanied Gupta to a dinner honoring the health minister of Ethiopia.

However, the prosecution grilled Basu and asked him if he was present when Gupta made the Goldman board call and if he knew a call from a number associated with Gupta was placed with Rajaratnam's office after the Goldman board meeting ended.

Basu said he was not aware of such calls but said he had often seen Gupta with a phone earpiece in his ear, "constantly" returning calls between meetings.

Gupta's lawyers also called Richard Schutte, the former president of Galleon Group domestic unit, to testify about the relationship between the fund and Goldman Sachs in late 2008.

Schutte had testified for the defense last year in the trial of Rajaratnam.

Schutte, who had previously worked at Goldman Sachs, told jurors that Galleon paid Goldman Sachs as much as USD 35 million in commissions and fees annually.