Essar group allegedly tapped phones of ministers, industrialists, bureaucrats: Report
During 2001 and 2006, the Essar Group has allegedly tapped telephones of several ministers, industrialists like the Ambanis and bureaucrats, says a report from the Outlook magazine.
According to the report
, the conversations, recorded by a former Essar employee over an 11-year period from 2000, reveal how rampant illegal phone tapping has become, not even sparing the Prime Minister’s Officer (PMO) when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the PM.
Here is what Outlook says about the taped conversations…
On tape are said to be Vajpayee’s NSA Brajesh Mishra and his foster son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya; cabinet colleagues Jaswant Singh, the late Pramod Mahajan and current UP governor Ram Naik, power minister Piyush Goyal, railway minister Suresh Prabhu, Mumbai MP Kirit Somaiya and Mahajan aide Sudhanshu Mittal.
On the business side, the entire undivided Ambani clan and their A-team: Mukesh Ambani, brother Anil and his wife Tina; RIL directors Hetal Meswani, Amitabh Jhunjhunwala, Manoj Modi, Anand Jain and Satish Seth; and their men Friday, Tony Jesudasan and A Sethuraman.
On the bureaucratic end, there is former PMO official NK Singh and current home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, then in the department of corporate affairs. Bringing up the rear are Subrato Roy of Sahara, Amitabh Bachchan, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh.
On 1 June 2016, Delhi-based Supreme Court lawyer Suren Uppal, who claims to represent Albasit Khan, an employee of Essar, who allegedly tapped the phones, sent a 29-page complaint to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Here are verbatim excerpts from Uppal’s letter to the PM, as quoted by Outlook…
“Conversations dated 01.12.2002, between Mukesh Ambani and Satish Seth (an RIL director) wherein they have been heard of managing the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India through Pramod Mahajan, with the visit and meeting of Ajay Singh with the CJI of India.”
“Conversations between Anil Ambani and Satish Seth 29.01.2003, wherein there is a clear disclosure regarding how Reliance was trying to manage the Shivani Bhatnagar Murder case to favour Pramod Mahajan and how the same was diluted as against the minister and the company was able to control the uproar in the Parliament by using Amar Singh.”
“Conversation between Amar Singh and Kunwar Akhilesh Singh, MP from Samata Party, dated 28 November 2002, whereby it has been revealed that the whole JPC [joint parliamentary committee] was managed by Amar Singh on behalf of Reliance so that Company’s involvement in the Ketan Parikh Scam and Global Trust Bank fiasco is managed favourably to protect Reliance Petroleum. It is further categorically mentioned in the conversation that money on behalf of Reliance has been paid to Prakash Mani Tripathi, Chairman of the JPC, whose son was already working for Reliance, along-with others including, S.S. Ahluwalia, Praful Patel, Prem Chand Gupta, Kirit Somaiya to get favourable outcomes in favour of Reliance India Limited.”
“Numerous conversations between N.K. Singh [then OSD in the PMO] and Mukesh Ambani, wherein they discussed the pre-budget policies of the governments and Ambani is heard influencing the making of the annual budget.”
“Conversations between V.K. Dhall, secretary DCA, Anil Ambani, Satish Seth and Rajeev Maharishi (sic), IAS, wherein the irregularities in 65-odd number of companies has been highlighted specifically from the point of view of the violations committed therein and the undue benefits been conferred on RIL thereby.”
According to the magazine, the tapping was allegedly done through the BPL (now Loop) Mobile and Hutch servers by cell-to-cell interception. Essar’s own network and the group’s conversations were being recorded on land and cell lines. The intercepting SIMs were pre-paid cards bearing the numbers and were recharged regularly by Shishir Agarwal.
Uppal told the magazine that the telephonic conversations leave no doubt as to whose voice it is and what is being discussed. “While the conversations, on the cellular and landline network, recorded for over a decade, run into hundreds of hours, 12 CDs containing some crucial conversations were key. These, Uppal says, have been handed over to Modi and some of the dramatis personae concerned. No one from the government has responded so far.
“I applied abundant caution in getting to the bottom of this scandal and waited for a response from the PM on what they are doing about this. Considering the innumerable violations of the law, I feel this is a fit case for a CBI probe or a court-monitored probe. However, like the corporates, the government too has chosen to be silent,” Uppal told Outlook.
Uppal told the magazine that after a few months, Khan went incommunicado. He said, “I feel he was being bought over by these corporates. They tried to manage him and he stopped taking my calls and SMSes as well. Subsequently, I have been unable to even connect with him. He could, perhaps, be out of the country by now.”
Top Essar officials told Outlook there was no basis for the allegations. “Is there any evidence to suggest that these are even Essar phone taps? These are the latest in the attempts to drag our company down.”