Corporate espionage case: At ministries, secret docs are free for all

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 21, 2015 12:57 IST

Spying by private companies at government offices has always been the city’s worst kept secret. Despite a few cases when private firms were found to be spying on classified information there are virtually no Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) laid out for officials who deal with secret documents.

The petroleum ministry possesses information about everything from production to pricing policies on oil and gas. Decision-making in the oil ministry affects plans and strategies of companies running into billions of dollars.

In olden days it was a trend to destroy classified files in the fire while there is a paper shredder in every government office these days. The handling of classified files and how it landed in the hands of the multitasking staff has raised quite a few eyebrows in government circles.

Senior officers said they were shocked how peons had laid their lands on ‘classified files’ which are supposed to be kept in locked cabinets and drawers. Others wondered if officials had been negligent and kept classified files open on their tables, if they were not been stolen from locked cabinets.

A retired petroleum secretary told HT, “While every cabinet note and sensitive document is edited online, there is a need for print outs.

Although senior officials have personal paper shredders, there are times when the notings have to move from one desk to the other that involves movement through the lower level staff.” He hoped the government would adopt strict practices to plug such leaks.

Meanwhile, Delhi police have said accused Ishwar Singh, a night duty peon at Shastri Bhawan, helped others in gaining entry during the night. His associate Asharam is a peon in the petroleum minister’s office. An investigating officer said, “They used a fake government sticker and a forged visitor’s pass to enter Shastri Bhawan. Asharam’s two sons Lalta Prakash and Rakesh who are ex-employees, entered the building with Ishwar Singh’s help and stole the documents. They would flee in the beacon Indigo car driven by the fifth accused Raj Kumar Chaubey.”

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