How the Corporate Espionage in the oil ministry unraveled, in 9 points

Image source: iStock

For quite some time now, it has been an open secret that the Petroleum Ministry of the Government of India is a playground for high-stakes corporate interests and crony capitalism. In fact, of all appointments to the Union Cabinet, the petroleum portfolio (along with communications) has been influenced most by external agencies.

The appointment of Dharmendra Pradhan, a BJP MP with roots in the RSS, as the oil minister, was seen as an attempt by Prime Minister Modi to keep the ministry honest, as Pradhan was seen as a person of integrity less likely to play along with corporate foils.

The current imbroglio began when it was perceived that sensitive documents and files in the ministry were being leaked over years in a systematic manner. Foreign investors in the oil sector complained that they were nervous about providing any sensitive information to the oil ministry about their investments, fearing they would be leaked out almost instantaneously.

The oil ministry complained, the IB kept watch, the Crime Branch of the Delhi Police laid a trap and nabbed some of the culprits.

Image source: iStock
Image source: iStock

This is how this ‘corporate espionage’ saga unfolded.

1. Three to four junior level staffers of the Oil Ministry at Shastri Bhawan devised ways to ensure that they are almost always on the night shift.

2. This is was not only to pass on critical documents to the representatives of the corporate, and energy consultants, but also to facilitate their re-entry into the premises.

3. On the night that the crime branch was keeping watch at Shastri Bhawan, three persons came in an Indigo car near the building. 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.

4. Duplicate keys used by them to access the offices of the Ministry officials, forged ID cards and fraudulently obtained temporary passes were also recovered.

5. The Indigo car had unauthorised signage claiming it belonged to the Government of India.

6. Recently installed CCTV cameras at Shastri Bhawan were disabled to evade surveillance.

7. The two ministry staffers, one Reliance India Limited staffer and two other “middlemen” were apprehended.

8. On Friday, Prayas Jain, of the gas consultancy Metis India, and journalist Santanu Saikia, of Indian Petro, were also taken also taken into custody.

9. There have been nationwide raids on the premises of leading companies dealing in the energy sector and further arrests are expected.

The real point of interest would be: if the police can trace the leads to a smoking gun, with a prominent corporate honcho behind it. .