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Two more held for alleged leak of classified oil ministry documents

The Delhi Police on Friday arrested two more persons including a journalist who runs a business portal for allegedly leaking confidential documents from the Union ministry of petroleum.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2015 17:03 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
oil ministry,RIL,journalists

The Delhi Police on Friday arrested two more persons, including a former journalist, for allegedly stealing official documents from Union oil ministry and selling them to energy consultants and large private companies.

Santanu Saikia was arrested for allegedly working as a middleman between employees in the ministry, who stole the documents, and the corporates which bought them, police sources said.

"We have arrested Prayas Jain and Santanu Saikia in this connection. Both of them are energy consultants who received stolen documents," said a senior police official.

Saikia used to buy the documents from the ministry employees for Rs. 10-12,000 and then sell them to corporates at much higher prices, the sources said.

While Saikia runs a web portal on petroleum issues and has his office in Defence Colony, Jain is the CEO of a Melbourne-based oil and gas consultancy firm.

The two arrests came a day after the crime branch of the Delhi Police, cracking down on a suspected case of corporate espionage, arrested five persons, two oil ministry officials, a Reliance Industries (RIL) staffer and two other middlemen for allegedly leaking classified government documents to energy companies for money.

Police also raided the local office of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) and picked up an employee at its Delhi office for questioning, according to sources.

RIL said it has been brought to the company's notice that one personnel has been detained by law-enforcement authorities. RIL has been locked in a dispute with the oil ministry after it was made to give up a portion of the gas fields in the Krishna-Godavari basin, and the two sides are scheduled to begin an arbitration process.

Four of the accused --Lalta Prasad, Rakesh Kumar, Prayas Jain and Shantanu Saikia --were remanded in police custody till February 23 by a Delhi court.

The police alleged that "incriminating" documents of the coal, power and other ministries were recovered from the possession of the accused who were supplying these to certain corporate houses for their benefit.

Police also took the five persons, who were earlier arrested for allegedly stealing official documents from the oil ministry, to the site of the crime to check the access they had to the building.

The five men, including two junior employees of oil ministry, were taken to the rooms of senior officials which they had allegedly accessed using duplicate keys in the middle of the night to steal official documents.

The rooms included those of joint secretary (refineries) and joint secretary (exploration) and some directors.

Addressing the media on Thursday evening, Delhi Police commissioner BS Bassi said, "On Tuesday night, police received information that some persons had sneaked into Shastri Bhawan (at about 11pm). Our team laid a trap outside and waited. After about two hours, when they came out and met their third associate, we nabbed them. Their interrogation later led to the arrest of two others."

Though the police refused to disclose the nature of the leaked documents, source said the papers pertained to pricing and other policy matters relating to the petroleum ministry.

Last year, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) said "business espionage" was a major threat for Indian firms.

Attempting to stem the flow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration installed closed circuit cameras late last year to prevent people sneaking out of the oil ministry with documents of interest to big corporations competing for lucrative oil blocks.

Thursday's arrests were the first high profile incidents since the cameras were installed.

Shares in Reliance were down as much as 3.4% on Friday, making it the top loser in the Nifty, as traders cited concerns around the probes.

(With PTI and Reuters inputs)

First Published: Feb 20, 2015 09:48 IST