Two more held in petroleum ministry documents leak

SansadTV Bureau

Investigation into the alleged leaking of classified documents from the Petroleum Ministry picked up pace on Friday with two more persons being arrested by Delhi Police, taking to five the number of those held in the sensational case.

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

Saikia is a former journalist who runs a web portal on petroleum issues and has his office in Defence Colony in South Delhi. Jain runs his consultancy firm in Patel Nagar in Central Delhi.

Cracking down on a suspected case of corporate espionage, Delhi police had on Thursday arrested two Oil Ministry officials, a Reliance Industries(RIL) staffer and two other middlemen in connection with alleged leaking of classified government documents to energy companies for money.

The Crime Branch sleuths arrested Asharam (58) and Ishwar Singh (56), who were employed as multi-tasking staff in the ministry, along with three of their alleged accomplices.

The other arrested persons include Lalta Prasad and Rakesh Kumar, brother and son of Asharam, who were previously employed as multi tasking staff at Shastri Bhawan.

In the afternoon on Friday, police took all the five arrested people to the Petroleum Ministry. They were taken to the rooms of senior officials which they had allegedly accessed using duplicate keys.

The rooms that they had allegedly accessed in the middle of the night to steal official documents included rooms of joint secretary (Refineries) and joint secretary (Exploration), besides rooms of some directors.
The bunch of keys allegedly found in their possession were used to open the rooms of top ministry officials they are suspected to have accessed, police sources said.

The rooms they had allegedly accessed included that of Special Secretary, two joint secretaries and some directors dealing with sensitives issues like exploration policy, petroleum pricing and gas pricing.

Sources said the ministry was first alerted of the theft of official documents some months back when some critical documents with the then Joint Secretary (Exploration) Giridhar Armane, were found in a photocopier machine when rooms were opened in the morning. The ministry internally probed the issue.

Asharam, while being taken to the court, said, “I am innocent” and blamed his sons for the whole thing.

Oil and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said he wants the guilty to be brought to book and would comment only after the investigation is complete. “Let the investigation be over. No one will be spared,” he said.

Sources said the accused allegedly used fake ID cards to gain access to Shastri Bhawan, the building that houses the Petroleum Ministry, in the middle of the night.

They would allegedly use the duplicate keys to open rooms of senior officials and photocopy secret official documents for sale to corporate and consultancy firms.

The rooms that they had alleged accessed to steal official documents included rooms of Special Secretary Rajive Kumar, Joint Secretary (Refineries) Sandeep Poundrik, Joint Secretary (Exploration) U P Singh and Director (Exploration-1) Nalin Kumar Srivastava among others.

Raids were on Thursday conducted at several establishments including a prominent building in Connaught Place which houses offices of a leading private petroleum firm believed to be RIL.

Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi had said that action was taken on a tip off that two persons along with their associates were involved in “procuring, obtaining and stealing the official documents by trespassing into the offices of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas at Shastri Bhawan on February 17.”

“A trap was laid and three persons came in an Indigo car near Shastri Bhawan. Two persons alighted and went inside while the third remained sitting in the car. After around two hours, when the two persons entered the car, all three persons were apprehended,” he said.

Reliance Industries said it has been brought to the company’s notice that one personnel has been detained by law-enforcement authorities.