12 arrested in corporate espionage case​: As it happened

In a development that caused reverberations in political as well as corporate circles, the Delhi Police on Friday arrested two energy consultants in connection with leaking of classified documents from the Petroleum Ministry.

Last Updated: Feb 21, 2015, 09:37 AM IST
12 arrested in corporate espionage case​: As it happened
  • As the case gets murkier, 12 people, including 5 officials of corporate firms, have been arrested so far.
  • Shailesh Saxena of RIL, Vinay Kumar of Essar, KK Naik of Cairns and Rishi Anand of ADAG Reliance have been arrested
  • Crime Branch has arrested five more persons in connection with suspected case of corporate espionage.
  • Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has demanded setting up of a commission to investigate the alleged case of corporate espionage in a time-bound manner, reports PTI.
  • Photocopies of "secret" documents including input for Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's budget speech recovered, say police.
  • The accused used to supply these sensitive documents to certain corporate houses: Police informed court.
  • Delhi Police informed court that various incriminating documents of ministries of Defence, and Coal and Power were recovered from the accused.
  • A Delhi court remands four accused arrested in connection with alleged leakage of classified documents in police custody till February 23. Three other accused in the case remanded in two weeks judicial custody by the court.
  • The Delhi Police is taking accused from Crime Branch office to court.
  • Sources say the accused allegedly used fake ID cards to gain access to Shastri Bhawan in the middle of the night. They would use the duplicate keys to open rooms of senior officials and photocopy secret official documents for sale to corporates and consultancy firms.
  • Sources say locks of all the rooms are being changed, and security and vigilance enhanced.
  • The door of Director Prashant S Lokhande was found compromised about two months back following which the ministry ordered a through investigation and CCTV cameras were installed.
  • Sources say the Petroleum Ministry was first alerted of the theft of official documents some months back when some critical documents with the then Joint Secretary (Exploration) Giridhar Armane were found in a photocopier machine when rooms were opened in the morning. The ministry internally probed the issue.
  • The bunch of keys found in the possession of the five arrested persons were used to open the rooms of top ministry officials they had allegedly accessed, say police sources.
  • Bassi refuses to reveal the names of the organisations who benefitted from leaking of documents. He said: "It will not be good to reveal the names of these organisations as the investigation is still on."
  • The arrested people (Lalta Prasad and Rakesh Kumar) did not steal particular documents, they instead used to lift any document lying on the table, says Bassi.
  • The police chief says the initial investigation revealed that some individuals, who were provided these documents, also worked with some corporate companies.
  • News agency, ANI, quotes Asharam, accused in the case, as saying that he has not done anything wrong and he is being framed. My sons are to be blamed for the incident, he adds. As crime branch officials whisked him away, he says, "I came to know of this on February 17. I have not done anything. Mera beta zimvewar hai (my son is responsible)."
  • Three accused, who were earlier in the day taken to the Petroleum Ministry, are now being taken back to Crime Branch office. 
  • Delhi Police chief BS Bassi adds the documents have to be examined in consultation with concerned officers.
  • Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi says probe into the matter is on. Vowing to share more information once he possesses it, Bassi says in total five people have been arrested in connection with the case.
  • Refraining from spilling the beans, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan says the investigating agency is doing its job and an independent inquiry is going on in the matter.
  • The rooms that they had alleged accessed to steal official documents included rooms of Special Secretary Rajive Kumar, Joint Secretary (Refineries) Sandeep Poundrik, Joint Secretary (Exploration) UP Singh and Director (Exploration-1) Nalin Kumar Srivastava among others. 
  • The five persons, including two junior employees of the Oil Ministry, are being taken to the rooms of senior officials which they had allegedly accessed using duplicate keys.
  • The Delhi Police takes five persons, who they have arrested for allegedly stealing official documents from the Petroleum Ministry, to the site of the crime to check the access they had to the building.

Earlier development:

In a development that caused reverberations in political as well as corporate circles, the Delhi Police on Friday arrested two energy consultants in connection with leaking of classified documents from the Petroleum Ministry.

"We have arrested Prayas Jain and Santanu Saikia in this connection. Both of them are energy consultants who received stolen documents," said a senior police official.

While Saikia is a former journalist who runs a web portal on petroleum issues and has his office in Defence Colony, Jain runs his consultancy firm in Patel Nagar.

Delhi Police chief BS Bassi said that both Saikia and Jain ran some sort of an independent website where they uploaded the analysis of the stolen documents.

"...And this information was further used by corporate houses. They also shared this information with some individuals in return of money," Bassi told reporters.

Both of them will be produced in court around noon.

The police had on Thursday arrested two Petroleum Ministry officials, a Reliance Industries (RIL) staffer and two other middlemen in the suspected case of corporate espionage.

In a case reminiscent of the spy scandal in mid 80s, more people are likely to be arrested today.

Raids were yesterday conducted at several establishments including a prominent building in Connaught Place which houses offices of a leading private petroleum firm, believed to be RIL.

Petroleum Minister Dharamendra Pradhan said that strict action will be taken against those involved in the case and they will be "severely dealt with".

Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi had yesterday said that action was taken on a tip off that two persons along with their associates were involved in "procuring, obtaining and stealing the official documents by trespassing into the offices of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas at Shastri Bhawan on February 17”. Notably, Shastri Bhawan is located a stone's throw from the Parliament house and houses offices of several ministers.

"A trap was laid and three persons came in an Indigo car near Shastri Bhawan. Two persons alighted and went inside while the third remained sitting in the car. After around two hours, when the two persons entered the car, all three persons were apprehended," he said.

"The car they were travelling in had an unauthorised sticker of the government of India," he said.

Bassi said the "secret papers" were photocopied after office hours by the arrested who used duplicate keys to open the offices after entering Shastri Bhawan on forged identity cards and temporary passes obtained fraudulently. The stolen documents were "sold" to an individual of private energy consultancy company and to those in the petrochemical and energy industries in return for rewards, he said.

"All those who are recipients of stolen documents will be questioned and action taken. If the documents fall under the purview of the Official Secrets Act, then the relevant sections will also be imposed," he told reporters.

"They had been involved in the act for a long time," he said, adding a case has been registered against the five for stealing, forgery, trespass and criminal conspiracy.

They were identified as Lalta Prasad (36), Rakesh Kumar (30), both brothers and resident of Delhi, and Raj Kumar Chaubey (39), a resident of Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh. Official documents were recovered from them. On information provided by them, Asharam, 58, and Ishwar Singh, 56, who were employed as multi tasking staff in the ministry, were arrested. Notably, Prasad and Kumar are sons of Asharam.

Reliance Industries said it has been brought to the company's notice that one personnel has been detained by law-enforcement authorities. Launching a "robust internal probe" into the detention of its employee, the RIL said no information of commercial consequence to it resides in the ministry with which it is in arbitration in several cases.

Pradhan, who talked to various news channels, said that the surveillance at the ministry had been tightened by the National Democratic Alliance government and indicated such thefts had been taking place during the previous UPA government's tenure.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked if the government will review decisions that had benefited the corporate houses due to the leaked documents.

He also sought to know how long this was going on and how many documents were leaked, while demanding that the corporate houses who allegedly benefited from the leaked documents should be named.

Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra said the government will get to the bottom of the matter.

(With Agency inputs)