New Delhi, Feb 24: When Pranab Mukherjee in the capacity as Finance Minister had in September 2010 complained to the Prime Minister that his office was being bugged, the government was quick to dismiss it as a case of Bubble Gums.
Mukherjee had written a letter to the PM stating that there were bugs in his office, but a hurried inquiry conducted that what the then finance minister was speaking of was not bugs, but bubble gums stuck on the walls.
As ridiculous as it sounded the issue died down. However, now with the investigations into the corporate espionage case suggesting that almost every ministry had become probe to documents being leaked, it would be interesting to revisit the claim made by Pranab Mukherjee.
The latest in the investigations into the corporate espionage case shows that some key documents of the defence ministry had gone missing. The Delhi police questioned a defence ministry staff by the name Virender to find more information on a key file in the ministry, which could have been leaked.
The bubble gum case:
In the month of September 2010, a letter had been written by the then Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee to the Prime Minister stating that his office had been bugged. He, in his letter stated that there was an adhesive like substance that was recovered at night from his office which may have been used to stick electronic listening devices.
He had suggested that there were adhesives stuck on the wall on a possible attempt to bug his offices. Ironically the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBTD) was roped in to conduct the investigation instead of the Intelligence Bureau which has expertise in this field.
The CBTD has no expertise in counter espionage operations despite which it was roped in to conduct the probe. This had raised suspicion but was quickly buried under the carpet.
Bubble gum not bugs, the probe said:
The probe concluded that there was no attempt made to bug the office of the finance minister and what was found on the wall was bubble gum and not an adhesive to plant a bug.
While there was criticism for roping in the CBTD, the government quickly initiated a probe by the Intelligence Bureau later which also concluded that there was no attempt to bug.
While the matter was quickly hushed up, the statement made by Mukherjee said it all. He gave a meek and surrendered response when he said, "in respect of a news item regarding bugging in my offices, the matter was investigated into and found nothing in it.
Is the finance ministry prone to bugging:
At that point in time the issue of corporates trying to get information out of the finance ministry never came up. It was alleged that this was a result of a war between the former and the current finance minister.
However the ongoing probe into the corporate espionage case goes on to show how information from the finance ministry had become important for the corporates.
There was a two page note of the petroleum ministry meant for the budget speech which had been leaked. In fact when it comes to information gathering, the finance ministry is the most sought after in corporate circles.
Corporates would normally eye for budget related documents and speeches in a bid to position themselves and also their products better in the market. The Delhi police say that the documents could have leaked out of the finance ministry too. They would also try and revisit the bugging episode of September 2010.
Leaks in the defence ministry:
While there has been ample information relating to the leaks in the petroleum and coal ministries, the defence ministry is now what the Delhi police are focusing on.
There are high stakes involved in the papers that have leaked out of the defence ministry and several consultancy firms have been placed under the radar, the police say.
Some documents relating to defence deals and pricing may have been leaked and only further investigations will tell the correct picture, the investigating officer points out. The Delhi police already have under the radar the oil, coal and power ministry.