The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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From fisherfolk to the heart of finance
- The rise and fall of Krishnamurthy, the man who could get things done

Chennai, May 26: At first glance, the ordinary two-storeyed home of A. Krishnamurthy in Chennai’s upper middle-class T. Nagar area hardly looks the hothouse for nursing a scam whose roots reach up to Delhi’s finance ministry.

Yet, it was here that last week investigators of the CBI found Rs 69 lakh in hard cash and cheques worth Rs 85 lakh. There were also documents that allegedly link him to the transfer-for-cash scam in which R. Perumalswamy, the personal assistant of minister of state for finance Gingee Ramachandran (who has since resigned), was caught taking a bribe from Anurag Vardhan, a tax officer.

Vardhan was fishing for a posting in lucrative Mumbai, Perumalswamy was to fix it and Krishnamurthy was the go-between.

Look at Krishnamurthy’s past and the contradiction falls into a pattern — rich potential hiding behind an unpretentious exterior.

Born in the very backward fisherfolk community, he became a chartered accountant, the first in the family. If he cleared his CA examination in several attempts, that is no unusual feat — many students, whatever their family background, do as much.

But the struggle was possibly a little more uphill for him than many others. By the time he found the time and the wherewithal to start a family, Krishnamurthy was way past the usual marrying age. He now has a child under two years old when he is into his forties.

Late starter he may have been in some ways, but once Krishnamurthy learnt to catch fish as an accountant, he began to cause quite a stir in the placid waters of Chennai’s conservative accountancy world. The big fish here were largely upper caste-dominated, family-run firms. They always have been.

Just as in the legal profession, the baton of business and the base of clients pass from father to son, son-in-law and now even daughters-in-law.

Krishnamurthy was an intruder. He did not have tradition to rest on, nor erudition — inherited or otherwise — to flaunt. To the surprise of the respectable citizens of the accountancy clan, he was not even the kind that would wallow in self-pity and curse his fate for not giving him a godfather.

He was plain efficient. He would attend every departmental hearing on time. Krishnamurthy is known as a man who can get things done — the transfer of a tax official or settlement of a businessman’s long-pending dispute.

“You want to visit the Tirupati temple, just call up Krishnamurthy and a car will be at your doorstep in minutes,” a source said in jest, but only to highlight the man-who-can-get-things-done image.

Businessmen sought him out, too, to cut costs and save time: why keep a case unresolved for years when Krishnamurthy can fix it' They sought him out for another reason. Those who have known him say he would “never get anybody into trouble, everyone had full trust in him”.

Described as “enormously practical and flexible”, he worked his way up with his win-win formula where neither his client nor the tax official loses. If the loss is to the government’s revenue kitty, that is altogether a different story. And if Krishnamurthy does not do it, someone else will.

It is common knowledge that transfers of tax officials are not transparent. Krishnamurthy’s nexus with Perumalswamy is only one of many fix-it routes to the finance ministry, sources said.

Krishnamurthy is just the variable X in the equation. “You remove him, there is a Y to fill the slot,” they said.

It was, however, a variable that had gained virtually unhindered access to income-tax officials right up to the top, and across major metros, including Mumbai and New Delhi.

In his success possibly lay the seed of his downfall. As Krishnamurthy rose, he became an object of intense professional jealousy, not the least because he had the ability to snatch cases from his peers. The fact is important because some see this as a possible trigger to the CBI being tipped off in the case.

It’s a theory and may not quite be the soundest, though attractive: The empire strikes back. Whatever the reason, Krishnamurthy finds himself in a position he should not be unfamiliar with — in the net. His origin, remember, lies in the fishing community.

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