A New York education advocate featured in an award-winning documentary Waiting for Superman has vouched for hedge fund tycoon Raj Rajaratnam embroiled in the biggest insider trading case in the US.
His "dear friend", Sri Lankan born Galleon hedge fund founder Rajaratnam, "had a genuine concern for children," Geoffrey Canada, president of the Harlem Children's Zone, testified before a New York court on Wednesday.
"Raj's wish was that we could level the playing field for kids," said Canada who appeared last year in the Superman film about the struggles of the public school system. His nonprofit serves 11,000 needy students in Harlem by steering them toward a college education.
Called by the defence as a character witness, the charismatic Canada called Rajaratnam as "a dear friend of mine" with whom he "hit it off right away" when they met about eight years ago.
He dismissed the notion that Rajaratnam was motivated by greed, saying the defendant jumped at the chance to give time and money to his cause.
"I never had to convince Raj. ... He volunteered the support," he said.
Canada also recalled hearing news of Rajaratnam's arrest in 2009, and how he came forward to sign a $100 million bond to help win his friend's his release.
"I don't personally have $100 million to guarantee his release," he interjected with a smile drawing laughter in the courtroom.
Prosecutors allege Rajaratnam made $68 million thanks to illegal tips from insider including a couple of Indian Americans.
Rajaratnam has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and security fraud charges and his lawyers insist he relied solely on expert analysis and research.
The trial is in its sixth week in federal court in Manhattan. It will likely hear closing arguments next week.