Corporate espionage: Former journalist among 7 arrested for leaking confidential oil documents

New Delhi(PTI): Continuing on the crackdown in the corporate espionage case related to Oil Ministry, crime branch has arrested a former journalist called Santanu Saikia. He runs energy portal Indianpetro.

Prayas Jain, an energy consultant who runs a Melbourne-based company, has also been arrested. Executives of Reliance Industries, Reliance ADAG and Essar are being questioned by the police. The police have reportedly raided the offices of a few companies.

Earlier Updates

Five people were arrested on Thursday and 25 more detained on Thursday night.

Cracking down on a suspected case of corporate espionage, Delhi Police on Thursday arrested two Oil Ministry officials and three other middlemen for allegedly leaking classified government documents to energy companies for money as late night raids were conducted on offices of some of these firms.

In a case reminiscent of the Spy scandal in mid 80s, some journalists who claimed to be independent energy consultants, and employees of certain petro companies were also said to have been detained for questioning in the development that has set off sensation in political and corporate circles.

Disclosing details of the case, Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi told newsmen 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.” They used to intrude in the night, he said.

“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.

They were identified as Lalta Prasad (36), Rakesh Kumar (30) and Raj Kumar Chaubey (39). Official documents were recovered from them.
Following up on the arrests, raids were conducted at several establishments including a prominent building in Connaught Place which houses offices of a leading private petroleum firm.

Reliance Industries said it has been brought to the company’s notice that one personnel has been detained by law-enforcement authorities.

“We are unaware of more details. 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.

“We are already in International Arbitration with the said ministry on all important matters. Our only expectation is a fair and expeditious resolution of our legal rights and contentions by the Arbitrators,” a company official said.

Reacting over the incident, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said, strong action would be taken against the two employees of his ministry who were arrested by police for allegedly leaking confidential government documents to private companies.

Bassi said documents were stolen, photocopied and leaked from the Oil Ministry in return for money and the investigators will soon apprehend the recipients of the papers.

He said the theft and leaking of confidential documents may have been going on for years. Bassi said this was being leaked to certain independent consultants and energy companies some of whom are being interrogated.

“They will be severely dealt with. Police is probing the case. We will take strong action against the guilty. Government will come down hard on them,” he said when asked about the case.

Asked whether any corporate lobbyist could be involved, the Petroleum Minister said it was up to the police to investigate.

“The government was conscious. Agencies are investigating. They will come out with full facts,” he said.

Terming leaking of information as a serious issue, the Minister said CCTV cameras were installed inside the Ministry as part of security measures.

“Government will come down hard on those involved,” he said.

With PTI inputs