The field agents in the leakgate ring were peons of oil and other ministry offices at Shastri Bhavan who have access to classified files — both hard and soft copies — and eavesdrop on important conversations, investigators said on Friday.
Police said the arrests of Ishwar Singh and colleague Asharam, multi-tasking staff or low-level employees hired on contract for office odd jobs, and the latter’s sons Lalta Prasad and Rakesh Kumar pointed to a network encouraged by industrial espionage.
Both Ishwar and Asharam have been working at the oil ministry office for the past 20 years and they stole documents and sold them to private consultants.
Asharam’s two other sons, Durga and Devi Prasad, were under the scanner, too.
“Durga has been detained but Devi is on the run,” a police officer said, adding more people related to Asharam could be involved in the racket but the mastermind hasn’t been identified so far.
A fifth associate Raj Kumar Chaubey was picked up along with Asharam and remanded in judicial custody.
Asharam revealed during questioning that senior colleagues, some of whom have retired by now, showed him how to make money by pilfering documents from offices of senior officials, police said.
Delhi Police crime branch officers suspect the network could be well-entrenched at ONGC and other offices as well. “Durga and Devi were employed with the ONGC on contract. Durga has been working for the past 15 years,” an officer said.
Police said former journalist Santanu Saikia and energy consultant Prayas Jain, who were arrested on Friday, were the suspected conduits who took the leaked documents from the peons and passed them on to private companies.
“They were procuring or purchasing documents stolen by the multitasking employees. We believe racketeers are working at other ministry offices at Shastri Bhawan. They leaked documents to the arrested duo and other consultancy firm officials who are under scanner,” an officer said.
“It is highly likely that the espionage ring has several layers: peons who stole documents and sold them, and consultancy firms which analysed the papers and prepared reports for companies.”