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EXCLUSIVE – International Expose: Cyber Forensics Vendors Cartel Playing Loot Games In India, Corrupt Practices Revealed

NEW DELHI: In one of the first expose of its kind, The420.in has accessed details shared by a team of whistleblowers which points to a nexus between bureaucrats, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and vendors. The latest cyber forensic software and tools are being sold to the state police, secret agencies, Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), law enforcement agencies and government bodies to investigate and examine cybercrime and other critical cases at manipulated prices as per the alarm raised by industry whistleblowers.

The cartel is behind inflating the price of tenders causing a huge loss to the government. It is alleged that the prices of products are spiked to over 200 per cent of landing cost in India.

WHAT IS THE SCAM

All security agencies in India including state police, defence and intelligence agencies are upgrading their digital infrastructure to combat technical cases of cybercrime, cyber terrorism, spying etc. In this virtual battle, latest cyber forensic software and tools work as arms and ammunition to counter such digital threats.

To procure this equipment, different agencies float their global tenders inviting international companies and OEMs to offer their latest technology. Whistleblowers alleged that these global companies are represented by their Indian partners or vendors who are hand in gloves with corrupt bureaucrats who help them inflate the price of the products. Over 90 per cent of these OEMs are based out of the US, UK, Israel and other countries.

Products like mobile forensic, computer/hard disk forensics, hard disk imaging and diagnosis tools, DVR forensics, video audio forensics, password recovery tool, CDR TDR Analysis, MAC Forensics, internet forensics are among the top tools required by security and law enforcement agencies. Shockingly, the same tools by the same manufacturer are sold at different prices to different agencies and states.

ALSO READ: Software Licensing Secrets for Indian Police Officers

Prices of tools are jacked up by 50-100 per cent depending upon the deal local vendors have negotiated with corrupt officials. At times these prices also go as high as 200 per cent. It is also alleged that OEMs does not offer level-playing ground to all the vendors by issuing Manufacturer Authorisation (MAF) only to the vendor who has struck the deal with the official. To qualify as the lowest bidder in the tendering process, vendors also arrange for supporting bids that quote more price.

The team of whistleblowers also said tenders have a specification that will benefit a particular OEM but that is not of any use to law enforcement agencies.

Conflict of interest – Indian officials of OEMs also represent as vendors, thus manipulating the price of international products by over 200 per cent.

Whistleblowers highlighted that two Indian vendors and an Israeli company are the masterminds behind the entire price rigging and bid manipulation process. They change the price on the government e-marketplace (GeM) portal as per their convenience. In cases where the purchase is made not through the GeM website there, these vendors sell the same products at either double the price or much below the usual rate. Screenshots of price variations have been collected by whistleblowers as evidence to establish that no fare pricing is followed.

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Few Vendors have submitted fake MAF (OEM Authorization letter) while bidding for tender in a very sensitive organization. Also, a few vendors have submitted two more supporting bids from the companies which are owned by their blood relations.They have been successful also. Matter for close scrutiny.

EVIDENCE

  • Prices of the same products and tools vary state to state and agency to agency. Purchase orders and tender details show how prices are inflated.
  • Screenshots of variation in the price of the same product on display at government e-marketplace (GeM).
  • The420.in has accessed details of prices quoted on GeM and purchase orders issued in the last two years.

ACTION

  • Top officials of GeM have said it does not allow bid specific OEM authorisation.
  • Immediate action against OEM if they forcefully impose bid specific authorisation.
  • Few NGOs and Whistleblower are planning to seek purchase Order details of these forensic products from MHA and other states Home Department ( Police, intelligence, CAPF) and Defence forces through RTI.

A team of whistleblowers are working on each such tender to expose the nexus. To know more, keep reading our expose series.

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Shashank Shekhar
Editor, The420.in. I am a communication enthusiast with a voracious appetite to learn, in a journalistic career spanning almost 14 years, I have worked for several leading publications and online platforms.

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