India arrests 5 oil company execs in widening investigation

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian police questioned five senior energy company executives on Saturday in a widening investigation into the alleged theft of classified government documents, a senior officer said.

Police also raided a company's offices in the New Delhi suburb of Noida after arresting one of its consultants on Friday, Police Commissioner Bhim Sain Bassi said.

More raids were possible, Bassi said, "as our aim is to reach the bottom of the whole thing." Meanwhile, police were studying the documents seized to understand exactly what information was being shared with energy companies, and how secret it was.

The five new suspects — all executives from energy companies, including Reliance Industries Ltd. and Essar — were arrested Friday night after authorities had charged seven others with trespassing, forgery and theft of documents from India's oil ministry.

Authorities acting on a tip arrested the first three suspects after they were caught leaving the ministry of petroleum and natural gas on Tuesday. Security cameras had been deactivated and duplicate keys were used to enter the offices of some top officials. Two energy consultants, one of whom was a former economic journalist, were arrested later.

Bassi said the men stole documents, photocopied them and sold them to independent consultants and energy companies.

Energy-starved India imports around 75 percent of its oil to power its economic growth. Information on oil imports and pricing would be invaluable for oil firms.

Bassi said police would ask a court to remand the five energy firm executives to custody for further questioning. They were to be charged with conspiracy and dishonestly receiving stolen documents, officials said.