NEW DELHI: The crime branch of Delhi police on Thursday arrested five persons on the charge of stealing classified documents of the petroleum ministry and took in for questioning a Reliance Industries and an Essar Group executive and a former journalist who runs energy portals, while claiming to take the lid off corporate espionage in economic ministries.

The police action followed complaints by the oil ministry and is said to have come after the Intelligence Bureau had tailed these persons and tipped off the police. “Sensitive” documents have reportedly been leaked from the ministry in recent times. These documents included internal communications on decisions with far-reaching commercial impact, such as gas pricing and arbitration cases against Reliance Industries with billions of dollars at stake.

This is how this ‘corporate espionage’ unfolded:

*Four (present and former) multi-tasking staffers at Shastri Bhawan were found stealing documents from petroleum ministry. They were helped by an acquaintance.

*Documents were lifted at behest of lobbyists, corporate houses and consultants.

*Papers were allegedly used to play the national, global markets.

The modus operandi

*The gang had forged IDs & entry passes to Shastri Bhawan

*They entered ministry after office hours, disabled CCTVs & used duplicate keys to access papers

*They photocopied papers or stole them, as per demand

The price

*The documents were sold by the thieves for Rs 5,000-10,000. At times, they charged more if papers were difficult to obtain.

*Recipients allegedly traded these papers for hefty considerations running into lakhs and crores

What was leaked

*Minutes of meetings, orders, communiques and proposals

Action on companies

RIL’s office at Gopaldas building in CP and Essar’s premises raided

RIL’s response

*It has been brought to our notice that one personnel has been detained.

*The matter is under investigation and we will cooperate.

*We are already in international arbitration with the ministry on all important matters.

*Our only expectation is a fair and expeditious resolution of our legal rights and contentions by the arbitrators.