The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday registered a case and conducted raids in Delhi and Mumbai to probe alleged sale of confidential files related to foreign investment policies of the finance and commerce ministries by senior government officials to corporate entities.
Two officials and a Mumbai-based chartered accountant were arrested by the CBI as investigators widened their net to track down those leaking government documents, first exposed last month when more than a dozen people were caught stealing and selling classified information from the oil ministry office at Shastri Bhavan.
“It’s just the tip of the iceberg … the extent of the corporate espionage will emerge soon,” a CBI officer said.
Section officer Lala Ram Sharma with the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) and under-secretary Ashok K Singh at the Department of Disinvestments and Grievances had allegedly sold government files they were supposed to protect to chartered accountant Khemchand Gandhi, said a CBI source.
The officials allegedly sent out the stolen files to Gandhi through courier and the racket was busted when the CBI intercepted a packet containing confidential information on Thursday. “We caught a courier company employee red-handed following specific information when he was about to deliver a package meant for the chartered accountant. We found it contained an entire file related to foreign investment,” said the CBI officer.
The chartered accountant is suspected to have “sold the confidential details to certain officials of around a dozen corporate firms” which have reportedly gained first-mover advantage on the sly, the source added.
He was apparently seeking files that belonged to these two departments as well as the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion.
“The detained officials were at posts that allowed them to initiate policy notes on critical foreign investment issues for framing of policies and directives by the ministries.”
CBI teams searched six offices and homes of government officials in Delhi and two in Mumbai in a coordinated move after registering an FIR in Delhi. Chartered accountant Gandhi’s office and residence were searched too.
The agency seized from the chartered accountant around Rs 60 lakh along with other data, including sensitive cyber material, which are suspected to be linked to his illegal transactions.
The CBI suspect a dozen companies bought the leaked files from the chartered accountant, who has been allegedly running the racket for the past two years. Officials of these companies would be questioned, a source said.
The agency’s probe, separate from a Delhi Police investigation on similar leaks of classified files from government offices, relied on its “source information” and surveillance on suspects.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is likely to begin aseparate probe in the case too.