As the Delhi Police and CBI probe two separate cases of documents being leaked from various ministries, it is now alleged that important documents related to the Jet-Etihad deal were leaked well before approval for it was given by the government.
And even as the full extent of the document leak is being probed, the government has gone into overdrive to ensure security on documents by getting officials across ministries to be more careful about how sensitive documents are handled.
More details are also emerging in the CBI probe into the leak of documents from ministries commerce and finance with a report now saying that details of the Jet-Etihad deal were leaked well before it was formally announced.
Documents that detailed the communication between the ministry of finance, civil aviation, FIPB and market regulator Sebi as well as legal documents related to the deal were reportedly leaked ahead of the final approval being announced on 29 July, said a Times of India report.
“In this deal, all the papers, file notings, information about rivals, policy notes regarding FDI, FIPB approval, and communications at the level of finance secretary, minister and other officials were leaked,” an unnamed source was quoted as telling the paper.
The news comes even as the government issues a long list of guidelines for ministry officials intended to prevent the leaking of documents, of which the principal one seems to be that confidential documents are not only torn into ‘small bits’, but also collected and burnt.
To this effect, it has reportedly issued a list of 26 instructions and also launched a ‘re-sensitisation’ drive for the end of February which will detail just how government officials need to handle sensitive documents, reports the Indian Express.
These suggestions include telling people not to encourage rumours or talk too much about a confidential issue, not to keep classified maps displayed in offices, avoid keeping secret papers on desks, not making notes on confidential documents in diaries and locking offices behind them.
Apart from CISF taking over security and new cameras being installed at key ministries, officials have also been told to verify the character and security credentials of outsourced staff for all purposes.
The Rs 2058 crore deal, under which Etihad bought a stake in the Indian airline, is suspected to have been of interest to rival airlines since it could set a precedent for other cases in the future, according to the report.
The deal had come under a cloud after BJP leader Subramanian Swamy had approached the Supreme Court against it.
The CBI has so far arrested five persons including an Under Secretary in the Department of Disinvestment and Grievances Ashok Kumar Singh, Assistant in FIPB section Ram Niwas, Section Officer in the Department of Economic Affairs Lala Ram Sharma, Mumbai based Chartered Accountant Khemchand Gandhi and Paresh, a partner in Chitale Law firm, that is also based in Mumbai.
The government officials are accused of passing on documents related to foreign investment policies, which were being floated in the ministries, to Gandhi, who in turn passed them on to big corporates for a price.
Sources in the CBI have said the probe so far has indicated that “first and second” levels of decision making in the Ministries of Finance and Commerce relating to foreign investments were allegedly “compromised”. CBI had also claimed that an official from a international consultancy group was under the scanner for procuring the documents from one of the accused.
CBI sources told PTI said that an official of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was allegedly procuring documents from the Department of Economic Affairs, under the Finance Ministry, through the chartered accountant arrested in Mumbai.
Officials in the investigating agency said it would probing the role of the consultancy group in detail to gather corroborative evidence and decipher the official-middleman-corporate nexus in getting hands on the confidential documents.
In a statement, PwC said that it had clarified its stand to the CBI. “Our manager met CBI officials today in connection with the FIPB applications filed by our clients and the official communication that we have exchanged with FIPB in this regard, in the normal course of business. Necessary clarification as asked for were provided,” the company said in a statement.
with inputs from PTI