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The family ties to the Satyam scandal

Disgraced Satyam founder Byrraju Ramalinga Raju's letter to the board of directors has sent shock waves around the world. In admitting that the Indian IT company's balance sheet contained non-existent cash worth over $1 billion, Raju (pictured) confirmed suspicions that the Madoff scandal was the tip of the iceberg.

To prove the point, he further admitted to overstating company profits and the amount of debt owed to the company, while its liabilities were in fact understated. His deceit reached "simply unmanageable proportions" and he was left in a position that was "like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten," he said.

But Raju is not your average fraudster who has come out of nowhere. Born in 1954 he is the scion of a wealthy agricultural family which made its fortune during India's green revolution. In 1987 he saw the potential in IT outsourcing and founded Satyam – which with a heavy dose of irony means truth in Sanskrit – with his brother.

The company grew to become India's fourth-largest technology company with sales of $2.1 billion, employing 53,000 people, and the Raju family built up a stake in the company that reached 8.6%.

In December 2008, in an attempt to replace the fictitious assets with real ones, Raju agreed to pay $1.6 billion to acquire two construction companies run by his two sons and in which he and his brother held stakes.

The deal was heavily criticised by investors who said it was driven by nepotism rather than business sense, and the board was forced to abandon the agreement as Satyam's share price plunged.

Raju's fraudulent behaviour began to emerge and was fully exposed yesterday when he admitted all in his letter and resigned. However, the story may not end there.

The Indian authorities will begin criminal proceedings in due course, but while Raju claimed he acted independently of company directors, he failed to exonerate his brother, Satyam managing director Rama Raju.

A family war could yet be the final, damning conclusion to this saga.

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