Corporate espionage case: PwC official under CBI scanner

  • Abhishek Sharan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 15, 2015 09:26 IST

The CBI is probing the alleged involvement of a representative of multinational consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in connection with the leak of classified documents from the finance and commerce ministries. It is set to question the “middle-level Indian official based in New Delhi” shortly.

“The investigation has revealed the role of a PricewaterhouseCoopers representative in obtaining confidential information from the Department of Economic Affairs,” a senior CBI officer told HT on Saturday, two days after the agency joined the wider corporate espionage probe by registering its first case and making five arrests.

The Delhi Police are already looking into leaks from four other ministries — oil, coal, power, environment — and have made 16 arrests in connection.

“Our manager met CBI officials today in connection with FIPB applications filed by our clients and official communication we exchanged with FIPB in this regard, in the normal course of business. Necessary clarification as asked for was provided,” a PwC statement said.

Two days of searches by CBI teams in Delhi and Mumbai have so far yielded a file on foreign investment in multi-brand retail, copies of Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) proposals, minutes of meetings, and internal notings of files. The arrest of a partner at a Mumbai law firm on Friday has also given the CBI strong “technical evidence” in the form of CCTV footage, the officer said.

“When the CBI detained Paresh Buddhadev, he was in the process of shredding two sacks of documents... We have the CCTV footage,” said an agency source. “We also recovered a few files that could not be completely destroyed. The shredded files pertain to foreign investment issues.”

The CBI officer said the agency was assessing the PwC representative’s links with the primary suppliers of the leaked files — arrested government officials Lala Ram Sharma (Department of Economic Affairs), Ashok K Singh (Department of Disinvestments and Grievances) and Ram Niwas (finance ministry) — and the intermediaries, including Mumbai chartered accountant Khemchand Gandhi.

More arrests are likely with an upper division clerk in the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotions wanted in the case. The CBI may also examine officials from a dozen-odd corporate firms — including banks, realty and pharma companies — suspected to be the end-users of the leaked documents and seek clarifications from the finance and commerce ministries, including on how sensitive the compromised files were.

Gandhi and Buddhadev may be brought to Delhi on transit remand for further questioning.

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