A day after it registered its first case in the corporate espionage scandal and arrested two government officials and a chartered accountant, the CBI revealed a stolen document it had intercepted on Thursday was related to foreign direct investment in the multi-brand retail sector.
The agency Friday widened its investigation into the alleged leak of classified documents from the finance and commerce ministries by searching the premises of a law firm and a chartered accountancy firm in Mumbai. It made two more arrests late in the day — Ramniwas, an assistant in the finance ministry, and Paresh, a partner in the Mumbai law firm.
Searches in eight locations in Delhi and Mumbai the day before had also yielded copies of Foreign Investment Promotion Board proposals, minutes of meetings, and internal notings of files stored in computers, laptops and mobile phones.
“We caught a courier company worker as he was about to deliver the package sent by the two officials in Delhi to the CA in Mumbai on Thursday,” said an agency source.
“We found an entire file related to multi-brand retail FDI, a controversial economic issue with high stakes.”
The three accused — section officer Lala Ram Sharma (Department of Economic Affairs), under-secretary Ashok K Singh (Department of Disinvestments and Grievances) and CA Khemchand Gandhi — had been under surveillance for two months, the source added.
Gandhi is suspected to have sold the confidential details to a dozen corporate firms. “We will soon be questioning certain officials of the firms — which include banks, realty and pharma companies — who were in touch with Gandhi and the two officials,” said the source.
Paresh, who was arrested Friday, was allegedly trying to destroy evidence — two sacks of documents — from his office. Some of these documents were recovered. “The first and second levels of decision-making in the finance and commerce ministries are suspected to have been compromised due to the nexus between officials and firms with stakes in foreign investment issues. The files may have been bought at moderate rates and sold at premium rates to potential foreign investors,” the source said, adding that “the rot was systemic and deep”.