Widening its probe into an alleged espionage scandal, the CBI on Thursday busted a racket involving sale of sensitive documents of various departments under the Union finance and commerce ministries. The agency arrested three men, two of them government officials, after a coordinated raid at eight places across Delhi and Mumbai.

The documents were allegedly being sold by under secretaries and section officers, and companies interested in foreign investments came to know about policies in advance. These arrests come on the heels of last month’s arrest of 12 persons for suspected data theft from the petroleum ministry.

Here are key facts about the case:

One: A Central Bureau of Investigation official said they conducted raids at six places in New Delhi and two in Mumbai in the leakage of documents related to foreign investments in the finance and commerce ministries. These documents were passed on to major corporate houses in the country in a racket that had been thriving for the past two years. The departments which were searched on Thursday included Department of Economic Affairs and Department of Disinvestment in the Finance Ministry, and the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion in the Commerce Ministry.

Two: Clarifying that it was a case separate from the espionage case being probed by Delhi Police, the official said the stolen documents were being sold for consideration by certain government officials to Mumbai-based chartered accountant (CA) Khemchandra Gandhi. Apart from Gandhi, Under Secretary in Department of Disinvestment and Grievances Ashok Kumar Singh and Section Officer in the Department of Economic Affairs Lala Ram Sharma have been detained by the agency. The agency has registered a case of criminal conspiracy, theft under IPC and misuse of official position against the trio.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“The CA along with two other people have been detained. The CA used to pass the stolen documents to various corporate houses. We have recovered Rs60 lakh from the office and house of the the CA,” said the official. Apart from cash, the CBI also recovered several documents, hard disks and laptops.

Three: CBI sources said Gandhi has named eight companies as the recipients of stolen documents — DLF Limitless, HDFC Bank, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, IndusInd Bank, Novalead Pharmaceuticals, Kakardi British Realty, Modril India and Prime Living. So big names in banking, pharmaceuticals and realty business are under the scanner of the agency which CBI officials termed as “tip of the iceberg”. All these groups under scanner have applied for foreign investments. By getting to know that a particular foreign investment policy was being floated in the government gave the beneficiary corporate groups a time window to prepare themselves for the policy when it finally gets enforced.

Four: The agency had been tracking the arrested officials and the chartered accountant and had intercepted a courier company in Mumbai through which a confidential file relating to policies on foreign direct investment was being sent.

It should be noted that these latest espionage case is separate from that probed by the Delhi Police. Last month, Delhi Police had unearthed a corporate espionage racket involving lower rung officials in the petroleum and coal ministries. Delhi Police has so far arrested 16 people in connection with two separate FIRs in the leakage of government documents related to the ministries of petroleum, coal and power. These documents were then supplied to the corporate companies to benefit them.

With inputs from Agencies

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