The South Asian Times

25 September 2017 23:35 PM

Defiant high-profile Indian-American prosecutor fired

By Arul Louis

New York, March 12: Preet Bharara, the high-profile Indian-American federal prosecutor, who defied US President Donald Trump administration's request to resign, said he has been dismissed.

"Today (Saturday), I was fired from my position as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York," Bharara said in a statement released through the Justice Department.

From a jurisdiction covering Manhattan, Bharara was often in the limelight as he went after politicians and high-flying financiers.

He and 45 other federal prosecutors or US district attorneys appointed by former President Barack Obama were On Friday asked by Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente to submit their resignations.

Unlike some of his peers, he refused and was fired.

It is customary for political appointees of a President to resign when a new one is elected.

All ambassadors, for example, were asked in January to resign and they complied. Among them was Richard Verma, an Indian-American US ambassador to India.

Bharara's case was unusual because unlike most of the other federal prosecutors he had been asked by Trump in November to stay on in his job.

He told reporters at that time that he had agreed to Trump's request to continue in his position.

Preetinder Singh Bharara was born in Ferozepore in 1968 and immigrated to the US as a child.

Bharara in 2013 set off a major diplomatic spat with India that backfired on Washington when he singled out an Indian woman diplomat for arrest and the humiliation of a strip search alleging that she had made a false statement in the visa application for her maid.

Other diplomats accused of such offences were not similarly treated by Bharara and the humiliating action against Devyani Khobragade, a Dalit, brought protests in India and retaliatory action by the government against US diplomats.

The then-Secretary of State John Kerry expressed regret for the incident and the matter was taken out of Bharara's hands and diplomatically resolved.

Bharara's jurisdiction covered the US financial capital, earning him the nickname of "Sheriff of Wall Street".

He prosecuted more than 100 finance executives for criminal activities like stock trading irregularities using insider information.

They include several Indians like Rajat Gupta, the former head of the consulting company McKinsey, and a Goldman Sachs Director, who served two years in jail for colluding with the Sri Lankan-American hedge fund operator Raj Rajaratnam in a stock market scam.

His ouster was probably greeted with a silent sigh of temporary relief by several politicians.

Although a Democrat, Bharara has prosecuted several New York politicians of his party and the most notable among them is Sheldon Silver, a former speaker of the state assembly, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption.

While he was being ousted, Bharara was investigating Mayor Bill DeBlasio's election fundraising and close aides of Governor Mario Cuomo.

He also prosecuted former UN General Assembly President John Ashe for alleged corruption before he died.

Among Bharara's high-profile cases against banks, Citibank paid a $158 million fine to settle a case he brought against it for misleading the government about loans.

In another case, Citbank made a $7 billion payment to the government after Bharara began investigating its Mexican unit.

JP Morgan Chase was made to forfeit $7 billion for failing to inform authorities about a massive investment fraud by a client.

Update: 12 March, 2017

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