| Kkaran Bahree
New Delhi/London, June 24: Kkaran Bahree made himself heard today but only to make contradictory statements on the allegation in a newspaper that he had divulged confidential information about customers of British banks in exchange for money.
In an explanation issued through his employer, Infinity eSearch, the 24-year-old IT worker admitted to accepting money in exchange for a CD on the instruction of an acquaintance of the reporter who wrote the story for The Sun, Britain’s largest selling tabloid newspaper.
But in an interview to the BBC World Service, Bahree denied taking money.
Bahree, who is alleged to have taken $5,000 from The Sun and asked for “another '275”, told the BBC: “No, it’s not true. This associate got in touch with me and he told me to hand over the stuff which he got, it was as a channel, nothing else. I don’t know anything about that. I was just told that this was only simple customer information you get so that a customer could be contacted, nothing else.”
The Sun report yesterday did not mention the engagement of an “associate” by the journalist, Oliver Harvey. But Harvey wrote the report, which was carried under his name, in the third person, which appeared to suggest that a third party had been employed by Harvey as a go-between.
Infinity eSearch said Bahree, who has been with it for three months and is on probation, revealed in the statement delivered by a relative “that he did accept money from the reporter. He also stated that he was asked by Sameer Asim, an acquaintance of Sun reporter Oliver Harvey, to hand over the CD”.
Deepak Masih, the legal counsel for Infinity, said: “Bahree made a presentation on the CD and delivered it to Oliver and was paid ‘some’ money, which was shared between him and Sameer.”
In the BBC interview, Bahree says: “I am not aware of the contents (of the CD)... I was just told that it only has simple customer information details so that the customers could be contacted.”
The Sun had reported yesterday that Bahree had sold its undercover reporter information about bank accounts, held by British customers, such as passwords, addresses and telephone numbers as well as passport details.
It had said it paid about $5 for each of the 1,000 accounts it bought.
Masih refused to say whether the CD had details of bank accounts and phone numbers. He also declined to respond when asked how it was possible that since Bahree himself had made a presentation, he could claim to be unaware of the contents.
“It is for the investigative agencies to deal with. We are just highlighting the points of the statement,” Masih said, adding that the company would hand it over to Delhi police.
Infinity’s effort today was to distance itself from Bahree. Rahul Dutt, its managing director, said: “We have no bank clients in the UK and we do not deal with any information that is classified. We are into things like web development.”
One of the big banks mentioned in the Sun report, Barclays, said today details of customer accounts allegedly sold by Bahree had not come from its operations.
Spokesman Alan White said: “We have investigated every piece of data passed to us. It is now clear that this could not have come from Barclays operations.
Masih said no law enforcement agency had yet approached Infinity. But IT industry sources said senior officials from Haryana police had visited the company’s Gurgaon premises.
“No one has contacted us... we are not hiding and we have nothing to hide,” said Dutt.
Infinity has not sacked Bahree yet “because he has not done anything against the company”.
According to the BBC, Bahree offered the following explanation of a photo in The Sun (also published in The Telegraph) showing him holding what looks like dollars.
“He offered me the stuff, he told me that this could be yours, he told me this thing, you get me the information. ‘You can earn a lot more like this.’ I said it’s primarily not possible in India.”
A number of other banks like the Woolwich, HSBC and Lloyds TSB said they were investigating the matter. Still others ' Halifax, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Nationwide and NatWest ' said they did not have any call centres in India.
A recent investigation carried out by the watchdog of City, London’s financial hub, the Financial Services Authority, found that Indian call centres posed no greater risk to security than ones in the UK. It added that in some cases security was better.