Veteran business journalist under CBI probe in NSE illegal snooping case

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Veteran business journalist under CBI probe in NSE illegal snooping case

A senior business journalist has come under the scanner of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the National Stock Exchange (NSE) co-location case involving its former chief, Chitra Ramakrishna, Ravi Narain and former Mumbai Police Commissioner, Sanjay Pandey.

Sources have told India Today that the role of the journalist surfaced when the CBI was probing the contract given to a firm linked to Sanjay Pandey and the alleged snooping on certain people.

Sources added that the CBI has come across evidence suggesting illegal snooping by Sanjay Pandey.

During its probe, the CBI has recovered payment receipts to a company backed by Sanjay Pandey, voice samples of recordings, original transcripts of the recordings, and servers along with two laptops from the premises of iSec Services Pvt Ltd, a firm linked to Sanjay Pandey, containing incriminating evidence of phone tapping on four MTNL lines, with each line accommodating 30 calls at a time.

According to sources, former NSE heads Chitra Ramakrishna and Ravi Narain roped in a private firm to illegally snoop on NSE employees. CBI suspects that the duo wanted to find out if the employees were discussing or leaking exchange-related information.

Sanjay Pandey-backed company iSec Services, sources added, received around Rs 4.45 crore as a contract amount. The alleged snooping took place from 2009 to 2017, coincidentally, the period when the co-location scam took place. The snooping machine was later disposed of as e-waste by the NSE.

The journalist under scanner, sources added, helped Sanjay Pandey get a contract for illegal snooping. The CBI suspects that the journalist was aware of the nature of the work. Still, the journalist under scanner approached the highest authorities in NSE to make sure that Pandey’s firm got contracts.

The CBI has also recovered incriminating documents during searches following which the journalist is under probe.

On Friday, the CBI conducted searches at 18 premises of the accused, including in Mumbai, Pune, Kota, Lucknow, and Delhi-NCR, including the residence of Sanjay Pandey. Sources say Sanjay Pandey was also questioned by the CBI in connection with this case.

The probe agency has registered a case against New Delhi-based iSEC Services Private Limited Ltd, its then officials and directors, including Santosh Pandey, Anand Narayan, Armaan Pandey, Manish Mittal, Naman Chaturvedi (then Sr Information Security Analyst), including former Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjay Pandey, along with NSE’s former chiefs Ravi Narain, Chitra Ramakrishna, Ravi Varanasi (then Executive Vice President), Mahesh Haldipur (then Head Premises) and unknown others.

The case was lodged after a reference from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in connection with alleged illegal interception of telephones of NSE employees carried out by its top management in collusion with the accused private company between 2009-2017.”

“It was alleged that from 2009 to 2017, the accused and a private company conspired to illegally intercept the telephones of NSE employees. In furtherance of this conspiracy, the private company was allegedly engaged in the guise of conducting ‘Periodic Study of Cyber Vulnerabilities’ at the NSE. It was further alleged that top officials of NSE issued agreements (Work Orders) in favour of the private company and illegally intercepted the phone calls of its employees by installing machines in contravention of provisions under the Indian Telegraph Act,” said the CBI officials.

The CBI has also alleged that no permission for this activity was taken from the competent authority as provided under the Indian Telegraph Act.

“No consent of the employees of NSE was also taken in this matter. It was also alleged that the transcripts of these calls were provided by said private company and received by the senior officials of NSE,” added the CBI.

READ | Six, including top executives of Tata Projects, arrested by CBI in bribery case

READ | CBI searches 18 locations across India, files case in NSE co-location scam

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