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Corporate Espionage: Another module busted, one more arrested in Delhi

More arrests are likely soon as search and raids are continuing in Delhi and NCR in this connection.

By: Press Trust of India Written by Kaunain Sheriff M , Ananya Bhardwaj | New Delhi | Updated: February 24, 2015 10:35:38 am
petroleum ministry, corporate espionage The Crime Branch has registered a new FIR under various sections of IPC relating to trespass, criminal conspiracy, forgery and fraud in this case.

With the arrest of another energy consultant, the Delhi Police have brought the coal and power ministries also under the ambit of an investigation that began with the alleged leak of official documents from the petroleum ministry last week. Police sources said seven employees from the coal and power ministries have been detained for questioning and more arrests are likely.

Lokesh Sharma, an employee of Infraline, an energy consultancy firm based in Noida, was arrested from Delhi’s Dwarka area. Police said two forged identity cards of the coal and power ministries and “official” documents were recovered from him. Police sources said during questioning, Sharma said that his company publishes a magazine, Infraline Plus, which is widely circulated in the ministries and he would procure documents for its content.

Following his arrest, a second FIR was lodged under IPC sections for trespass, forgery and criminal conspiracy. Police sources said Sharma’s “module” operated independently of the one in which 12 people were arrested last week, including five executives from leading energy firms RIL, Jubilant Energy, Reliance ADAG, Essar and Cairn India.

Sharma was produced in a court on Monday. The police said the documents recovered from him were “sensitive in nature” and related to “policy matters of the ministry”. Sources said Sharma’s father used to work as a driver in the petroleum ministry and was aware of the loopholes in the system.

Seeking police remand, the investigating officer told the court: “The accused had a modus operandi in securing sensitive documents from the coal and power ministries. It also looks like even before policies were formulated related to the ministries, related documents were leaked. The accused is required to be confronted with these documents and his custodial interrogation is required. This case is not related to the case of petroleum ministry. But fake ID cards have also been used in the case.”

The accused in police custody on Monday.   (Prem Nath Pandey) The accused in police custody on Monday. (Prem Nath Pandey)

Police said Sharma allegedly worked at the behest of his senior officials. These senior officials are likely to be questioned after the police analyse the nature of the documents leaked.

Arguing against police custody, defence counsel and senior advocate Jai Singh Yadav said: “The order of FIR has not been supplied to me. How should the defence argue. I should know why my client has been detained. I should be informed what are these sensitive documents that they are speaking about that requires police custody.”

The Delhi Police replied: “The documents recovered are sensitive in nature. We have also sent these to the ministries, after which we will see if these attract charges under the Official Secrets Act.”

Granting police custody for five days, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Satish Kumar Arora asked the police to allow the defence counsel a legal interview on the first and last day of the police custody.

According to the police, Sharma’s name cropped up while questioning Santanu Saikia of Indian Petro Group and Prayas Jain of Metis India — both were arrested last week. S\ources said Sharma has good links with the staff at the coal, power and petroleum ministries, who allegedly leaked confidential documents to him. Sources said Sharma used to connive with the multi-tasking staff at these ministries to procure these documents.

Sources also said that after procuring the documents for his firm, Lokesh would sell them to other energy consultants and corporates who had a direct tie-up with their firm. According to sources, Sharma had supplied documents to both Saikia and Jain’s companies.
Meanwhile, sources said five persons from the petroleum ministry and two from the coal ministry are also being questioned, and more arrests are likely.

Four of those arrested last week — Saikia, Jain, Lalta Prasad and Rakesh Kumar — were sent to judicial custody for 11 days today. During the hearing before the Metropolitan Magistrate, the four alleged that the police had forced them to sign on blank papers during their custodial interrogation.

“It has been submitted by counsel appearing for accused that they (accused) have been made to sign five-six blank papers on different locations of the papers,” noted the magistrate in his order.

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