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Espionage case: 5 sent to 3-day police custody

Espionage case: 5 sent to 3-day police custody
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sanjay Khanagwal allowed the Crime Branch of Delhi Police to quiz them in their custody till February 24 as the police said charges under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) might also be invoked in the matter as documents related to national security have been recovered.

"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," the police said, adding that the accused might tamper with the evidence if released at this stage.

The five accused, who were produced in the court, are Shailesh Saxena from RIL, Vinay Kumar from Essar, K K Naik from Cairns India, Subhash Chandra from Jubilant Energy and Rishi Anand from Reliance ADAG.

Saxena is Manager, Corporate Affairs, Reliance Industries Limited(RIL); Chandra is senior executive, Jubilant Energy; Anand is DGM, Reliance ADAG; Vinay is DGM, Essar and Naik is GM, Cairns India.

During the hearing, the police said these accused have been arrested on the basis of disclosure statement of the other arrested accused.

"We need three-day police custody as recoveries have to be done and the beneficiaries have to be interrogated," the investigating officer (IO) said.

He said the probe was at an initial stage and officials of the Petroleum Ministry and other ministries will look at the documents recovered during the investigation.

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

It said that they have to consult the officials of the concerned ministries regarding the documents seized from the accused as these materials might have a bearing on the national security.

The advocates appearing for the five accused opposed the police's plea seeking three days police custody, contending that their clients have been illegally detained since February 18 and 19.

The defence counsel contended that there was nothing to be recovered from their clients and the police have not told the court about the specific allegations against the accused.

During the arguments, senior advocate Ramesh Gupta, who appeared for RIL's Saxena, opposed the contentions of police saying his client was "illegally detained" since February 18.

"They cannot take the court for ride. They have to follow the prescribed procedure. Saxena was taken away from his office on February 18. CCTV camera installed in his office should be seen," he said.

Gupta further contended that case diary has not been paginated which was against the prescribed procedure and the police has failed to show any specific allegation against any of the five accused.

"Media has written so many things which are not before the court. From where the press is getting this information? Are they (police) leaking it?" he said adding the police should first satisfy the court as to why police custody was required.

The counsel appearing for Naik argued that there was nothing more which was required to be seized or recovered from his client who was also "illegally detained" by the police.

Similarly, senior advocate Dayan Krishnan, appearing for Essar's Vinay Kumar, said that on February 18 the police searched the office of his client and Kumar was called to the crime branch office the next day and since then he was being "illegally detained" by the police.

The counsel appearing for Rishi said that there were no specific grounds on which the accused have been arrested and Rishi was detained by the police officials since February 19.

The lawyer representing Chandra said that no incriminating documents have been seized from his client and he has been detained since February 19.

Countering the submissions of the defence counsel, the IO said that the accused were not detained illegally and they were arrested yesterday only. He also said that case diary was in proper paginated form.

The IO said these five accused used to procure documents from arrested accused Lalta Prasad and Rakesh, who were produced before the court on Friday, and they used to pay them. These documents were then supplied to the companies by these officials to benefit the firm.

"They used to know about the government policy in advance. We have to analyse about their acts as to how they were extending benefits to their companies," the IO said.

He said that senior company officials were aware of it and the arrested accused were doing it at the behest of their senior executives.

The police said the accused have to be confronted with each other and with the documents and they have to take them to various places for further investigation.

On the arrest of its employee, 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," the statement said.

Reliance Industries spokesperson, on the arrest of its employee, said "we have been informed through the media that one personnel has been arrested. We are ascertaining more details through a robust internal inquiry to understand the role of this personnel."

With the arrest of these five accused, the total number of arrests in the case rose to 12. Seven others were produced in the court on Friday, out of whom four were sent to police custody till February 23 and three were remanded to judicial custody for two weeks.

According to police, these five company executives were receivers of stolen documents recovered by police teams during raids on their establishments.

They have been booked under IPC sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy) and 411 (dishonestly receiving stolen property).

The alleged pilfering of 'secret' documents, which was thought to have been a racket confined to the Petroleum Ministry, actually covered matters in Finance, Coal and Power ministries, police said.

Apart from these five corporate executives, the police had arrested seven persons-- two Oil Ministry staffers, three middlemen and two energy consultants--Santanu Saikia and Prayas Jain.

Former journalist Saikia, now running a petro web portal, and Jain, who runs his consultancy firm in Patel Nagar in central Delhi, were arrested as they were suspected to be receivers of the stolen documents.

As per the FIR produced in the court, an input on the National Gas Grid for the Finance Minister's budget speech of 2015-16 is among the various "secret" documents recovered from the accused.

Besides this, police also recovered a letter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Principal Secretary Nripendra Misra, according to the FIR in the case.

"Photocopy of documents with heading input material on National Gas Grid for inclusion in Finance Minister's budget speech 2015-16," the crime branch has said in its FIR filed in the case.

The court had yesterday remanded Lalta Prasad and Rajesh Kumar (Oil Ministry staffers), Jain and Saikia to police custody till February 23 after police had said "sensitive" documents have been recovered.

Regarding the other three accused--Ishwar Singh, Asharam and Rajkumar Chaubey, the police had said they were not required for custodial interrogation and they were remanded in judicial custody for two weeks.

Police alleged that "incriminating" documents of Coal, Power and other ministries were recovered from the possession of the accused who were supplying these to certain corporate houses for benefit.
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