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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014

Did Vodafone leak data to UK spy agency? India launches probe

Gaurav Choudhury and M Rajendran, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, March 10, 2014
First Published: 00:41 IST(10/3/2014) | Last Updated: 09:44 IST(10/3/2014)

The finance ministry has asked the department of telecommunications (DoT) to examine several concerns raised by the home ministry, including the possibility that Vodafone Group Plc may have shared details of phone calls and emails of its subscribers worldwide with British security agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

In a letter dated December 27, 2013, the home ministry asked the department of economic affairs to consider the points it had raised (see Red Flags) while processing Vodafone’s proposal to increase its stake in its Indian subsidiary from 64.38% to 100%.

Read: Cyber attack on Russia hits India, secret defence documents leaked

Intriguingly, the same letter, which granted security clearance to the proposal in the first para, ended with a paragraph that said approval “is not advisable from (an) economic angle”.

“No such concern has been raised by the Indian government. Our FDI application was cleared by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) and the cabinet committee on economic affairs after necessary due diligence. Vodafone does not disclose any customer data in any jurisdiction unless — like any other operator — it is legally required to do so,” the company said in response to an email from HT.

“The communications ministry is examining the issue,” a senior official in the ministry said on condition of anonymity.

Telecom secretary MF Farooqui could not be reached for comments.

FIPB cleared Vodafone’s stake hike proposal on December 30, 2013, three days after the home ministry letter. The finance ministry forwarded the home ministry’s letter to DoT for appropriate action on February 20, 2014. HT has seen copies of both letters.

Read: 'US spy software installed in comp network in India'
Read: Mass spying by US and UK appears illegal: EU


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