US finance crisis claims Indian family - Six lives lost on stock crash

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By K.P. NAYAR in Washington
  • Published 7.10.08

Washington, Oct. 7: The upwardly mobile Indian American community suffered its first loss of lives from the financial meltdown in the US when police yesterday discovered the body of Karthik Rajaram and five members of his family in a well-to-do Los Angeles suburb.

Rajaram bought a gun on September 16 as the financial crisis here began to bite, wrote two suicide notes and a will, killed his wife, mother-in-law and three sons, and then took his own life, police said. The police in American cities are normally guarded in what they say about crimes until they are fully investigated.

It is a sign of the rising panic in urban communities in the US over the growing financial crisis that Los Angeles police deputy chief Michel Moore commented on the circumstantial nature of the tragedy to reporters. “It is critical to step up and recognise we are in some pretty troubled times,” he said.

Forty-five-year-old Rajaram was the kind of financial wizard who once made over $1.2 million in a single deal in a London-based venture fund. But his fortune was wiped out by the recent stock market collapse.

Rajaram may have shot members of his family to death and then killed himself sometime after Saturday night but before Monday morning, according to neighbours.

Their bodies were discovered on Monday after Rajaram’s wife Subasri, 39, failed to turn up for the pool car she used to commute in every morning. Friends went to their house and found the day’s newspaper at the entrance. The family’s two cars which proclaimed their affluence, a luxurious Chevrolet Suburban SUV and a Lexus, were on the driveway. The house in the gated, Spanish-style neighbourhood was eerily quiet and anxious friends called the police.

When the police entered the house, they discovered the body of the nearly 70-year-old mother-in-law, Indra Ramasesham. Other bodies, of three sons, Rajaram’s and Subasri’s, were found with multiple gunshot wounds in their heads, the police said.

Rajaram had left two suicide notes, one addressed to the police, another a “personal and confidential” message to family and friends as well as a will. In the letter to the police, Rajaram said economic hardship had left him with two options: one was to take his own life, the other was to kill his entire family and then himself.

Moore told reporters who rushed to the scene that “this is a perfect American family behind me that has absolutely been destroyed... if you will, of absolute despair.”

Rajaram, an MBA from the University of California in Los Angeles, acquired the reputation of having a Midas touch in financial dealings after The Daily Telegraph of London wrote seven years ago of how his wise investment in a UK venture fund netted him profit worth 70 times his capital and valued at the equivalent in pounds of $1.2 million. California land records showed him profiting three times from the timely sale of his house two years ago for $750,000 before the real estate market collapsed all across America. Rajaram once worked for accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers and for Sony Pictures. He later set up a company of his own in Nevada with the name SKGL LLC, said to denote the initials in the family’s name.

Success, however, brought its problems for Rajaram, according to business associates quoted in the California media. Several of them described Rajaram as tense, intense and, at times, erratic.