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View from US: Jail for some, pass for others

June 30, 2012


In America too. A battle between the executive and the legislative mouths off, wrapping in President Obama, his Attorney General Eric Holder and the Republicans in the Congress. “Show us the documents,” bellow the Republicans who want to charge Holder for criminal contempt in a botched up covert ‘Operation Fast and Furious’ that involved anti- drug smuggling operations at the Mexican border where US law enforcement officers lost count of thousands of arms that went missing. For the first time since taking office, Obama has invoked executive privilege and refused to show the documents.

The New York Times in its editorial headlines it as a “pointless partisan fight.” It blames the Republicans for “shamelessly” turning a routine matter into a pointless constitutional confrontation. It’s about money, race and politics. Defeat Obama at any cost, vow many.

In Pakistan too, the battle between the executive and the judiciary has caused a constitutional crisis. Tossing burning issues like load shedding and national bankruptcy to the back burner, the stove now has only a witch’s brew boiling.

While Pakistan’s Donald Trump seeks protection from life threats and is hunting for a lawyer to defend him for allegedly bribing VVIPs, America’s poster boy Rajat Gupta gets ready for jail time. The Indian-origin magnate was once one of the world’s most respected businessmen. Indian-Americans looked up to Gupta, 63, as their Zeus and the Wall Street was his Mount Olympus. I remember him coming to attend meetings in a hotel where I worked several years ago. The whole staff went into overdrive making sure that Gupta, the then head of McKinsey & Company, a global management-consulting firm, based in New York was treated like a king. After all, the man was the trusted advisor to the world's leading businesses, governments and institutions.

The temperature of the bottled water that touched his hallowed lips was carefully tweaked; the chair he rested his precious cargo on had to be at a comfy angle; the table he rested his vaunted elbows    on had to be the perfect height and the temperature control of the meeting room had to be ideal.

Rajat Gupta was King Midas for the hotel staff. His golden touch ensured our bonuses, just as Riaz Malik’s touch ensured salaries for sons of generals and admirals in the Bahria Corporation.

Today, Gupta’s touch has turned to lead while the jury is still out on Malik. When Gupta was on the board of directors at Goldman Sachs, he allegedly leaked boardroom secrets to his friend and business associate Raj Rajaratnam, the then head of the Galleon Group hedge fund. Convicted of insider trading, the Sri Lankan origin Rajaratnam is currently serving an 11-year jail term. Gupta will be charged coming October. He could be in jail for the next 20 years. “He has now exchanged the lofty boardroom for the prospect of a lowly jail cell,” said Preet Singh Bharara, the prosecutor who charged Gupta for insider trading.

Time Magazine carried a story titled, ‘Desi vs. Desi’; and the Indian press on ‘How Preet Bharara Got Rajat Gupta.’ The orphan from Kolkata, who came to America and achieved the American dream and lived a storybook life got nailed by fellow Indian Bharara, 43, a Harvard and Columbia law graduate. He is determined to purge the Wall Street of securities fraud and has aggressively chased Gupta.

Riaz Malik, in a bid to topple the chief justice has ended up opening Pandora’s Box. Worms will continue to crawl out of the box, feeding a media frenzy. But one thing they won’t bring is jail time for any of the alleged offenders accused of contempt of court (Gilani); bribery (Riaz Malik); taking bribes (Arsalan Iftikhar). Nor will the owners of television channels caught in bed with planted interviews will be shamed or punished. The dog and pony show will continue until another scandal hits Pakistan.

America is no different. Instead of the rising joblessness and poverty, the two presidential candidates – Obama and Romney are grabbing money from wherever they can lay their hands on. In one night, Obama attended 6 fundraisers in New York. The most famous was at the home of ‘Sex and the City’ star Sarah Jessica Parker. She charged $40,000 per guest! Co-hosting the dinner was Vogue’s editor Anna Wintour, an ardent fund-raiser for Obama. Romney too likes attending these high star-power events, walking away with five-figure cheques from filthy rich donors. ‘Dine with Donald’ was one such extravaganza. Donald Trump and his billionaire friends are determined to defeat Obama and get a ‘white man’ back inside the White House this November.

Where will the millions yoked by Obama and Romney go? I can answer it in one word: television! Millions will be pored into TV channels for airtime and advertisements by the presidential candidates. Down the months, their election campaigns will get dirtier and dirtier. Campaign money, if spent on one’s mistress or one’s love child can get you jail. Yet, John Edwards, who was John Kerry’s vice presidential running mate in 2004, was embroiled in a love affair with Reille Hunter, who later gave birth to their daughter Quinn. Recently, Edwards walked out of the courtroom a free man when charges related to nearly $1 million in campaign contributions spent to keep the affair a secret fell through the cracks. Many Americans call Edwards a sleaze ball for cheating on a dying wife battling cancer.

Rielle Hunter has written a book on their love affair called ‘What really happened.’ She is raking it in with press interviews and TV appearances. Call it twisted law or whatever, but the whole affair is odious.

One man who will go to jail is Jerry Sandusky, a serial, predatory pedophile. As the assistant football coach at Penn State University, he regularly for years abused little boys. He founded a charity called ‘Second Mile’ ostensibly designed to help at-risk youth. Instead, he molested and sexually abused them. Found guilty on 51 counts of abuse, the 68-year-old Sandusky sat through the hearings before a 12-member jury. A parade of men who through “tears, sobs and gasps of breath detailed horrific act after horrific act in Penn State locker rooms, Sandusky's kid-friendly basement and hotel rooms on football road trips,” say newspaper reports. Addressing the jurors, the deputy attorney general said: ‘‘I give them (these scores of victims) to you. Acknowledge and give them justice.’’

Justice is convulsive; the law convoluted. Crime pays for some; for others it does not.