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Corporate espionage net widens, seven more held

The drama over the theft of confidential documents from the petroleum ministry continued with the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police arresting two more persons on Friday, a day after five persons, including two ministry employees, were arrested on charges of leaking crucial papers.

The Police today arrested Santanu Saikia, a former journalist who now runs a news website indianpetro.com, and energy consultant Prayas Jain, who has office in Delhi’s Patel Nagar area. The two were detained for questioning at the Inter State cell in Chanakyapuri till late Thursday night.

In the afternoon today, the Police took the five accused — including Multi Tasking Staff Asharam and Ishwar and two former employees Lalta Prasad and Rakesh Kumar — to the rooms of senior officials in the oil ministry for reconstruction of the crime scene. The rooms, which were allegedly accessed by them with the help of duplicate keys included the rooms of Joint Secretary (Refineries), Joint Secretary (Exploration) and two other directors.

Later in the day, the Police produced the seven accused before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sanjay Khanagwal in the Patiala House court complex. The Crime Branch, which is investigating the case, told the court it had recovered documents related to oil, coal and power ministries from the accused Lalta Prasad, his brother Rakesh Kumar and their driver Raj Kumar Chaubey.

The brothers would steal documents from the ministry with the use of duplicate keys and help of two government employees Asharam and Ishwar Singh. Asharam would signal his sons Prasad and Kumar to enter the office of the Oil ministry once the minister had left for the day. He would shut down the recording of the Close Circuit Television (CCTV) Cameras installed in the ministry’s Shastri Bhavan office. Chaubey used to carry the documents to both Saikia and Jain.

Saikia would run articles based on these documents on his website and print newsletters. Saikia and Jain are also accused of selling these documents to corporate houses at exorbitant prices. After hearing the arguments from the counsels of Delhi Police and accused, Magistrate Sanjay Khanagwal sent Singh, Chaubey and Asharam to judicial custody and sent the remaining accused to police custody for further interrogation.

“The documents recovered from them have serious implications. We are sending these seized documents to the concerned ministries, asking them to analyze which documents are classified and privileged. On the basis of ministries’ reports we will decide on applying charges under the Official Secret Act,” said a source investigating the matter.

The case was registered under Indian Penal Code sections 457 (trespass), 380 (theft), 468 (forgery for the purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine forged documents), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention).

“Photocopy of documents with heading input material on National Gas Grid for inclusion in Finance Minister’s budget speech 2015-16 has been recovered from the accused,” the Crime Branch said in the First Information Report (FIR). The police have also recovered a letter from Prime Minister Principal Advisor Nripendra Misra. The other photocopied documents include a brief on further opportunities in Sri Lanka dated February 4, 2015 and monthly gas report of December 2014 dated February 16, 2015.

The second document was signed by Atreyee Das, DG of the cell. Other materials recovered from the possession of the accused include photocopies of ‘background note’ on performance of upstream sector and others.

The Police had on Thursday raided several establishments including the a prominent building in Delhi which houses offices of a leading private petroleum firm. Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries (RIL) said one personnel has been detained by law-enforcement authorities. “An internal probe is underway as per our robust internal standards. The matter is under investigation as per law and we are determined to cooperate in every possible manner,” a company official had said.

Asked about the investigation regarding RIL and other corporate houses, the source investigation the matter said: “We are investigating the beneficiaries of the documents. Their officials are being interrogated.” Another senior police officer, who too spoke on condition of anonymity, said they had acted on a tip-off from the Intelligence Bureau and accordingly laid a trap. “One can expect some more arrests in the coming days, but it is not going to be a major case as it is being currently projected in the media,” he said.

Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi said 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 the petroleum ministry at Shashtri Bhawan on February 17.

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