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India vows tough action over energy documents ‘leak’


INDIA vowed the “strictest punishment” Saturday against anyone involved in stealing top-secret documents from the country’s petroleum ministry and selling them to energy companies, as the number of people arrested over the scam rose to 12.

Five senior executives from top refineries including Reliance Industries, Essar Oil and Cairn India were arrested late Friday following a major police sting operation to trap those responsible for leaking the classified documents, police said.

Seven others — two former ministry employees, a journalist, three middlemen and an energy consultant — were also arrested between Thursday and Friday, it added.

“No guilty person will be spared and they will receive the strictest punishment possible,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh told reporters in New Delhi, adding a possible nexus between corporate lobbyists and government officials had “been going on for a long time”.

Police said the classified documents were sold to private energy companies and consultancies.

Of the twelve people arrested so far, two are former government employees who allegedly used duplicate keys, forged identity cards to trespass into the ministry at night and disabled closed-circuit cameras to photocopy documents related to high-value bids and pricing policies.

The five company executives were scheduled to appear in a local court later Saturday, where police said they would appeal for their custody to carry out further interrogation.

Reliance, controlled by the country’s wealthiest man Mukesh Ambani, derives most of its earnings from its massive energy operations.

Corporate espionage is a major problem in India. A report from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry listed it as the ninth biggest threat to local companies in its 2014 survey.

The report also said that despite the presence of CCTV and tracking software, only 15-20 percent of corporate espionage cases are detected.

Another industry report in 2012 said more than one in three companies were involved in “some form of espionage to gain an advantage over their competitors”.

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