Corporate espionage: Selling national secrets from Rs 5,000 onwards

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The corporate espionage case in which several persons were found to be passing information regarding the petroleum ministry is getting murkier with the arrest of a journalist, Santanu Saikia.

The crime branch of the Delhi police have found shocking details of how this entire modus operandi had taken place.

Corporate espionage: Selling top secrets

Meanwhile the Delhi police have also arrested Prayas Jain who ran an oil and gas consultancy firm. He is alleged to have procured documents and passed it on to corporate houses.

While the preliminary investigations had found that five persons directly connected with the case had leaked sensitive documents of the petroleum ministry to corporate houses, it was also found that they had disconnected the CCTVs in the petroleum ministry while photocopying the documents and sneaking them out.

What did these people earn?

The three intermediaries were tasked with entering into the office and stealing the documents. They in turn passed on these documents to consultants and lobbyists. The consultants and lobbyists who received these documents sold them to the corporate houses for amounts between Rs 50 lakh to Rs 2 crore, investigations have also revealed.

The cost was fixed on the sensitivity of the document. While those stealing it at times charged up to Rs 20,000 for documents difficult to procure, the consultants receiving these documents fixed the price for corporate houses depending the importance of the document.

Documents relating to the fixing of prices fetched the most. Presentations by foreign firms on investments in India also fetched large amounts.

Other documents pertaining to regular meetings and smaller decisions earned a lesser amount.
Most of the documents that were leaked outside the petroleum ministry were relating to policy decisions on pricing, presentation by foreign firms and also details of the meetings in the ministry. These persons would visit the Petroleum ministry regularly and two officials would pass on the documents which would in turn be photocopied and sold.

Duplicate keys and disconnected CCTVs:

Investigators say that they had to lay a trap on them since there was nothing on the CCTV to show that they were smuggling documents out of the ministry. They had fake identification cards and vehicle stickers made for this purpose.

Their entry into the office was normally in the evening when there were less number of people. Two officials however stayed back to help them. Once inside the office, they disconnected the CCTVs following which they went about their business, investigators also informed.

These persons even had made duplicate keys with the help of which they managed to enter into the offices sometimes after office hours, investigation has also found.

The role of a journalist:

Santanu Saikia, the journalist who was arrested was being questioned since the past 24 hours. Saikia who was a business reporter with a leading newspaper had quit his job and opened a portal. For the past couple of years Sakia has been running the the petroleum industry vertical.

Delhi police say that after questioning him since yesterday they have prima facie evidence of his involvement. He is alleged to have sourced the documents and passed it on to corporate houses.

Whether the five persons arrested were working on his orders is under investigation. We are also looking into the role played by Prayas Jain who was heading an oil and gas consultancy firm.

The role of consultancy firms:

The role of consultancy firms have come under the scanner in this case. They are the ones who are the behest of the corporates had set up this network. They ensured that those stealing the documents did not come in contact with the corporates directly.

The job of the consultancy firms and also the journalist was to procure the documents through their men. They used their influence in the ministry and set up a deep-rooted network. Once the papers were procured they would hand it over to the corporates.

The corporates would have middlemen to deal with such issues. Meetings would be fixed and a price fixed before documents were handed over. In some cases, the corporates too suggested the documents they would want to have procured.

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