ED stumbled upon phone tap logs during NSE scam probe
While the CBI has been probing the NSE co-location fraud case since 2018, the ED is probing money laundering in the case since 2019.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) while investigating the National Stock Exchange (NSE) co-location scam stumbled upon the “monitoring reports for call logs” and “approval notes” of the bourse having its former managing director Chitra Ramkrishna’s approval, which revealed the conspiracy for illegal tapping of landline phones of NSE employees for years through former Mumbai police commissioner Sanjay Pandey’s family firm.
The central agency made this claim while seeking Ramkrishna’s custody from a Delhi court on Thursday as it filed a money laundering case against Ramkrishna, Pandey and NSE’s former MD Ravi Narain.
The CBI has been probing the NSE co-location fraud case since 2018, while the ED is probing money laundering in it since 2019. Several stock-broking companies allegedly got preferential access to the NSE’s server when Ramkrishna was the MD-CEO of the bourse between 2010 and 2015. The CBI arrested Ramkrishna on March 6. Former NSE group operating officer Anand Subramanian was also arrested in February.
After it stumbled upon the phone tapping in the co-location probe, the ED recently sent a report to the ministry of home affairs (MHA), which in turn asked the CBI to file a case last week, according to an officer.
The CBI last week raided premises linked to Pandey, iSEC Services Pvt Ltd, and others in the phone tapping case, in which provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act, Information Technology Act, Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, criminal conspiracy, cheating and prevention of corruption act have been invoked.
It is alleged that top officials of NSE tapped phones through iSEC in the guise of “Periodic Study of Cyber Vulnerabilities of NSE” by installing an illegal machine inside the bourse premises and without the consent of the employees.
“ED recorded statements of various persons including Chitra Ramkrishna and had collected various documents including the ‘Monitoring Reports for Call Logs’, ‘approval notes ‘of NSE bearing approval granted by Ramkrishna for the so-called Periodic Study of Cyber Vulnerabilities etc,” the agency said in court on Thursday.
Investigations into the illegal tapping of phones of National Stock Exchange (NSE) employees by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjay Pandey’s family firm revealed that “the work orders or contracts for the surveillance” were processed by Chitra Ramkrishna during her tenure as deputy managing director and managing director of the bourse between January 2009 till February 2017”, the ED said on Thursday.
“After she relinquished the post of MD of NSE in December 2016, the contract for so called “Periodic Study of Cyber Vulnerabilities of NSE” expired on February 13, 2017 and was never renewed subsequently, thus proving that the said illegal activity was co-terminus with her holding key position as Joint Managing director/Managing Director of NSE,” the ED informed the court on Thursday.
Pandey’s firm was paid ₹4.5 crore for the tapping, which, the ED says, was decided by Ramkrishna and other officers of the NSE.
“Almost everyone’s landline at the NSE building in Mumbai was tapped, except of the top brass, from a space provided to iSEC in the bourse building’s basement. We have information that the surveillance went on continuously. We are investigating the role of iSEC during the entire period,” said an officer, requesting anonymity.
The court granted four days’ custody of Ramkrishna to the ED, which will probe a larger conspiracy and money trail in the tapping.
HT last week reported that each of the devices – iSEC installed four red servers at the NSE office – had the capacity to tap 120 calls at a time. The CBI seized one of the devices last Friday. The transcripts iSEC prepared were handed over to the NSE bosses, according to a second officer.
ED investigators said the accused destroyed several transcripts, particularly after investigations began into the NSE co-location scam in 2018.
Besides Ramkrishna, Narain and Pandey, the CBI and ED have named former NSE executive vice-president Ravi Varanasi and former head (premises) Mahesh Haldipur in the illegal tapping case. Pandey incorporated iSEC in March 2001. His son and mother took over the company after he quit as its director in May 2006.
Pandey served as Mumbai police commissioner for four months before he retired on June 30. He was also Maharashtra’s acting director general of police from April 2021 to March 2022.