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Satyam head arrested

The chairman of Satyam Computer Services was arrested on Friday on charges of cheating and forgery, and the government dissolved the outsourcer’s board as authorities moved to limit fallout from India’s biggest corporate scandal.

Chairman Ramalinga Raju, who resigned on Wednesday after revealing years of accounting fraud, was expected to appear before India’s market regulator on Saturday.

In a late night development, Raju and his brother B. Rama Raju, Satyam co-founder and managing director, were arrested on charges of criminal breach of trust, criminal conspiracy, cheating, falsification of records and forgery, Reuters was told by S.S.P. Yadav, police chief of the southern Andhra Pradesh state, whose capital, Hyderabad, is home to Satyam.

Officials with India’s Registrar of Companies searched Satyam’s offices and seized papers and electronic documents, the company said late on Friday in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Earlier, Corporate Affairs Minister Prem Chand Gupta said the government would appoint 10 new members to the Satyam board, which would meet within seven days. There was no move at this time to take over Satyam’s management, he said.

“The government is considering appointment of suitable persons as directors of Satyam,” Gupta told a news conference in New Delhi. “We are determined to reach the truth but are equally concerned with the fate of employees and other stakeholders.”

A Satyam spokeswoman said the company welcomed the government’s decision, which would restore the confidence of all employees, customers and shareholders. However, she said Satyam had no comment on the arrests.

In a bid to ease investors’ concerns, the Securities and Exchange Board of India said auditors’ certification of corporate results from the December quarter would be peer reviewed.

The government barred Satyam’s board from holding its scheduled meeting on Saturday, called to consider options such as inviting a takeover or strategic investor and appointing an investment banker.

Analysts said Satyam’s very existence was threatened by the scandal, which stand-in Chief Executive Ram Mynampati said has pushed the company into a crisis of unimaginable proportions.

Satyam shares slumped to 11.50 rupees (24 U.S. cents), their lowest since March 1998 and a far cry from a 2008 high of 544 rupees, before ending down 40 percent at 23.85 rupees ahead of the board’s dissolution.

The company’s market value has shriveled to $330 million, from more than $7 billion six months ago.

January 10, 2009 - Posted by | news | , , , , , , ,

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