The telephones of several VVIPs, including cabinet ministers, businessmen Mukesh and Anil Ambani and several bureaucrats were allegedly tapped by the Essar Group for five years (2001 to 2006), according to a complaint submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 1, 2016, the Indian Express reported.
The IE report states that the purported recorded conversations reveal the use of clout to a great extent in the corridors of power, "corruption in the business milieu," deal-striking and the difference between business and the government becoming blurred.
The 29-page complaint, submitted by Supreme Court lawyer Suren Uppal, who claims to represent Essar employee Albasit Khan, who allegedly tapped the phones, mentions the names of several VVIPs, including current Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, former ministers Praful Patel and Ram Naik, Reliance Industries Limited Chairman Mukesh Ambani; Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group Chairman Anil Ambani, his wife Tina Ambani and several top officials of their companies, late cabinet minister Pramod Mahajan and MP Amar Singh.
Several prominent persons who allegedly figure in the conversations include then PMO officials Brajesh Mishra and N K Singh; politicians Ram Naik, Kirit Somayia, Jaswant Singh, Piyush Goel and Sudhanshu Mittal, Sahara chief Subrata Roy and actor Amitabh Bachchan.
The list also includes current Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi, former IDBI Bank chairman P P Vora, ICICI Bank former CEO and managing director KV Kamath, and the bank's former joint managing director Lalita Gupte, IE reported.
According to the complaint submitted by Uppal, the phones were allegedly tapped from the company's two offices in Delhi and Mumbai. IE quoted him as saying he has handwritten records and diaries that contain call logs with the date and time, and also the content of the key recordings. All the information was compiled by Khan and his team.
Uppal claimed these conversations are just the "tip of the iceberg," and that there were "far more incriminating conversations that expose invariably all aspects of corruption in the business milieu, governance, policy making and judicial pronouncements that have marred our national pride and progress."
IE quoted Uppal as saying Essar Group's Prashant and Ravikant Ruia had briefed Khan in 2001 "that since their company was already a telecom licensee for cellular operations under M/s Hutchinson Essar, the company is required under its statutory obligations to support the government investigations by intercepting and tapping such phones which are under government surveillance and thus assigned the responsibility of recording and providing the recording conversations to the management of the company..."
The notice reportedly says the "privacy of certain officials, confidentiality and secrecy of government decisions and policies, sanctity of judicial decisions and pronouncements, national safety and security have been grossly abused and compromised... with M/s Essar's intentionally intercepting, tapping and recording personal/public information, in blatant violation of the Licensing Policy in the Telecom Sector."
According to Uppal, Khan, who worked for Essar as the head of security for more than a decade, submitted "hundreds of audio cassettes containing thousands of conversations" that were purportedly intercepted.
Essar Group has denied the allegations and called them "completely false and baseless."