Oil ministry leak: ‘National interest taken for a ride’

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New Delhi | Published: February 22, 2015 1:15:28 AM

Five executives in police custody for 3 days, Rs 10,000-cr scam, says Santanu Saikia

As it intensified the probe into the sensational corporate espionage, Delhi Police on Saturday said “national interest was taken for a ride” and talked about invoking Official Secrets Act against the 12 people arrested, including five corporate executives.

The police got three-day custody of the five corporate executives for questioning, even as it raided the office of a petrochemical company in Noida after it searched the office of arrested energy consultant Prayas Jain. More raids are possible, Delhi Police commissioner BS Bassi said, as he promised to reach the bottom of the matter.

Meanwhile, key accused in the case Santanu Saikia claimed that it was a R10,000-crore scam that he was trying to uncover. Saikia, a former journalist, now running an energy consultant website, claimed this to reporters outside the crime branch office. “Please quote me,” he said, as policemen took him in for interrogation.

Reacting to his claim, petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan said Saikia was saying such things for covering up his own deeds. “Let him spill out all the information he has. The primary accusation is that somebody stole the papers from the ministry. Police are investigating. Anybody has the right to tell everything to the police,” he said.

On the other hand, producing before court the five corporate executives who were arrested Friday night, Delhi Police said, “National interest was taken for a ride in the case. Documents relates to national security have also been recovered. This may attract charges under the Official Secrets Act.” It sought their custody, saying the accused might tamper with the evidence if released at this stage.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sanjay Khanagwal allowed the crime branch of Delhi Police to quiz them in their custody till February 24. The five accused who were produced in the court are Shailesh Saxena from RIL, Vinay Kumar from Essar, KK Naik from Cairns, Subhash Chandra from Jubilant Energy and Rishi Anand from Reliance ADAG. Saxena is manager, corporate affairs, Reliance Industries (RIL); Chandra is senior executive, Jubilant Energy; Anand is DGM, Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group; Vinay is DGM, Essar and Naik is GM, Cairns India. Seven people had been arrested earlier.

The police said the documents recovered from the accused showed that they were perused by their senior officials, who will also be questioned in the case.

The advocates appearing for these five accused vehemently opposed the police’s plea seeking three days police custody, contending that their clients have been illegally detained since February 18 and 19. Police sources said that Chandra, arrested along with four other top officials of energy companies on Friday, was taken to Jain’s office this morning. After searching Jain’s office, the police team took him to the Noida office of Jubilant Energy. His office and other rooms were searched to recover stolen documents.

“We have searched places which were necessary for the course of investigation. We may raid more places,” Bassi said.

“We need to know since how long this has been going on and who all benefited from it,” said a senior official.

On the arrest of its employee, an Essar Oil spokesperson said, “We have noted with concern that one of our employees has been arrested by the authorities. Essar is a law-abiding corporate following a zero-tolerance policy towards acts which are against the law of the land. The company reiterates that neither it has directly nor has it authorised anybody to conduct any acts not in compliance with law.”

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