New Delhi: The CBI on Thursday carried out searches at various ministries in the national capital in the corporate espionage case.
The raids were conducted in six places in Delhi and two in Mumbai today to investigate the alleged sale of information by government officials.
The CBI also arrested a Mumbai-based chartered accountant and two government officials tonight for allegedly selling confidential documents related to foreign investment policy to corporate groups after it carried out searches in offices of Finance and Commerce ministries here and in Mumbai.
CBI's action came after registering a case of criminal conspiracy, theft under IPC and misuse of official position under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act against Chartered Accountant Khemchand Gandhi, Under Secretary in Department of Disinvestment and Grievances Ashok Kumar Singh and Section Officer in the Department of Economic Affairs Lala Ram Sharma.
After detailed interrogation, the trio were taken into custody late night.
Major coordinated search operation was carried out at several offices of Finance Ministry and Commerce Ministry, residences of Singh, Sharma and Gandhi.
The sources said a trove of confidential documents and Rs 60 lakh cash was allegedly recovered from the residence of Gandhi besides large number of electronic documents have been found on the laptop, tablets and hard disks recovered from the residence of officials and CA, as per PTI.
It is alleged that the government servants were selling documents related to Foreign Investment Policies, which were being floated in the ministries, to Gandhi who in turn passed them on to big corporates for a price.
The sources said the racket was allegedly active for last two years and might have sold and influenced the policy of government regarding foreign investments in India.
"The Under Secretaries and Section Officers of ministries are custodian of policy documents and also the first movers of policy proposals. We suspect that they might be influencing the policies in favour of corporates. But that is a matter of probe," a senior CBI official alleged.
The sources said agency was tracking the officials and the chartered accountant for quite some time and today intercepted a courier in Mumbai in which an entire confidential file was recovered. The courier was allegedly sent by Ashok Kumar Singh to Gandhi, the sources said.
They said by getting to know that a particular foreign investment policy was being floated in the Government gave the beneficiary corporate groups a time window to prepare themselves for the policy when it finally gets enforced.
This may give them "First Mover" advantage which may translate into immense profits, they said.
The sources said during the interrogation of Gandhi and officials some big names in banking, pharmaceuticals and realty business including DLF Limited, HDFC Bank, IndusInd Bank, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals have surfaced which have come under the scanner of the agency for being the suspected beneficiaries of these documents.
When contacted, HDFC Bank and IndusInd Bank refused to comment on the issue immediately. Glenmark Pharmaceuticals also did not respond to requests for comment.
DLF, in a statement, said, "DLF Limited strongly denies any link with the said company and wrongdoing on its part. This is a mischievous attempt to malign DLF. We have absolutely no dealings with Khemchand Gandhi and we have never been in touch with Mr Gandhi."
The sources said these corporate groups are just a "tip of the iceberg" as more names, who allegedly used the services of Gandhi to procure confidential documents, may tumble out during the probe.
All these groups under scanner were interested in foreign investments af some point or the other, the sources said.
The sources also said that this case is separate from that probed by the Delhi Police as it was proper sale of documents via a chartered accountant to the corporate groups who have interest in the foreign investments.
The probe by the CBI is separate from the investigation being carried out by the Delhi police regarding alleged sale of information by government officials.
Delhi Police had, on February 20, arrested the five corporate executives from top energy firms alleging that they used to procure documents from other accused Lalta Prasad and Rakesh, and they used to pay them.
These documents were then supplied to the companies by these officials to benefit the firm, the police had said.
Five days later, Virender Kumar, a Defence Ministry staff member, was arrested for allegedly stealing an identity card of an auditor at Indian Defence Accounts Service and providing the same to one of the accused, Lalta Prasad, in the case.
Besides them, the police had also arrested Rakesh Kumar, Prayas Jain, Shantanu Saikia, Ishwar Singh, Asharam and Rajkumar Chaubey, who are also in judicial custody.
In a separate FIR, the police had arrested three others - Lokesh Sharma, an employee of a Noida-based consultancy firm, Jitender Nagpal, PS to Joint Secretary in Forest and Environment Ministry and Vipan Kumar, PA to a UPSC member- and were sent to judicial custody till March 17.
A total of 17 people have been arrested so far in connection with the two FIRs by the Crime Branch of Delhi Police.
(With PTI inputs)