Raj Rajaratnam Should Not Have Trusted the Fortune Teller

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Raj Rajaratnam. Photo: Rick Maiman/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Convicted inside trader Raj Rajaratnam, who received a record eleven-year prison sentence after refusing to plead guilty or wear a wire, does plead ignorance (again) in this week's issue of Newsweek, while also attempting to parse the cultural tensions in the case between Indians, Americans, and Sri Lankans. "In Sri Lanka I would have given the judge 50,000 rupees and he’d be sitting having dinner at my house," Rajaratnam said. "Here, I got my shot. The American justice system is by and large fair.” What it's not is easily predictable, which Rajaratnam found out after opting to listen to an astrologist who said he would get off, according to a friend:


"He'd gone to the ola-leaf readers. They told him he'd be acquitted." Ola-leaf readers are Sri Lankan astrologers. They believe that 3,000 years ago, seven Indian sages decided to write down the horoscopes of every person yet to be born, on a series of palm leaves. A skilled reader can read the leaves to present a complete life story of an individual, including his future. So on a subsequent meeting with Rajaratnam, I ask him about the ola leaves. "A friend did it for me," he says, startled that I know. The friend took his (and his wife's) date and time of birth to a leaf reader in Sri Lanka, who sat before a sheaf of leaves and asked a series of questions to which the friend answered yes or no, as at a deposition."

But the psychic doesn't even seem to have been particularly accurate about basic details, or otherwise used widely available defining details:


"Is his name Vijay?"

"No."

"Is his name Karun?"

"No."

"Is his name Raj?"

"Yes."

Then the correct ola leaf was picked out by the astrologer and Rajaratnam's fortune read. The astrologer chanted into a tape for 45 minutes. The recording said there was a government case against Raj, that he was in the stock business, that he was world-known. That he had to close his business down.

"So I don't generally believe in fortune tellers and astrologers," Rajaratnam says. "But the ola leaves were written thousands of years ago. In those days there was no share business. I found it interesting." The leaf reader also divined that his wife was born in "some Southeast Asian country." Asha was born in the Philippines.

Not to undermine ancient traditions, but it sounds like this particular reader followed the news. Oops!

The Outsider [Newsweek]