New Delhi: Many foreign-based private detective agencies have offices in the national capital and operate unmonitored in India.
Headquartered in Hong Kong, Holland, London and the US, these foreign detective agencies possess satellite facilites and other state-of-the-art equipment for surveillance, reveal industry insiders. Steele Foundation, Hill and Associates, Group 4, Rouse and Company, Kroll Worldwide, Quest Research and Control Risk Group are some of the foreign-based private detective agencies operating in India. These detective agencies claim world-class skills in forensic accounting, investigative interviewing, fraud auditing and scientific content analysis, and are reportedly run by former senior officials of foreign intelligence agencies like the CIA and FBI, and the IB, CBI and RAW in India. Industry sources claimed many former members of Indian security agencies are associated with these agencies. Steel Foundation of the US operates from Lajpat Nagar in New Delhi while Hong Kong-based Hill and Associates, New York-based Kroll Worldwide and Group Four, and US-based Rouse and Company have offices in Gurgaon. "Steele Foundation’s international training group provides training for the US Army heading to Iraq," reveals the website of the firm. It adds that "the training was conducted at an undisclosed location in Florida." "Steele is excited about expanding our business by working with the US military forces in the war against terrorism," Mr Dave Johnson, director of special projects and training for the Steele Foundation, was quoted as saying in an article on its website dated February 10, 2005. However, when this correspondent contacted the Lajpat Nagar office of Steele Foundation, she was told, "We provide security guards." On further questioning, the employee added, "We also do all kinds of investigation and background checks. It depends on what you want. You just tell us your requirement."
"Our focus are the dynamic but less-than-transparent emerging markets of Asia," claims the Hill and Associates website, whose Indian operations are headed by Mr Ashish Sonal, reportedly a former IB official. When contacted, a Hill and Associates employee in Gurgaon said, "The company deals in investigations. We deal in forensic and cyber crime, risk management etc." With its Indian headquarters in Delhi and Mumbai, its website boasts: "With two offices in the country’s political and financial capitals, we are uniquely positioned." It claims it provides "a full range of risk management consulting services by virtue of its local knowledge matched by international consulting expertise". The agency claims to be staffed by personnel with backgrounds ranging from military special forces and police agencies to specialists from the corporate sector.
Group 4 says its clients reportedly range from "the prison service to the royal family and the government" and talks of its ability to guard its customers against espionage, sabotage and subversion.
"In connection with our services relating to India you can contact our Dubai office," says Rouse & Co. International, claiming to provide a full range of intellectual property services. "The charges for investigations vary from $900-$1,200, which may include obtaining the background details of the party, nature and extent of its operations, locating and visiting the factory, warehouse and offices, obtaining samples and evidence to take action, and identifying their distribution channel," reveals the website.
Quest Research claims to be "the clear industry leader in Asia". The Quest Research website says: "We utilise numerous databases aggregating regulatory, criminal and compliance information from around Asia and the world. These include ‘IntegraScreen’ databases which contain all the major international proscribed lists (including OFAC, FBI, UN and the terrorism lists)."
Frequently used by foreign governments for security cover and investigation, these detective agencies are apparently going unmonitored in India. "They pose a serious threat to the security of the country," say industry insiders. "Indian detectives are nothing in front of their foreign counterparts," adds a member of the Association of Private Detectives of India (APDI). "While the government of India directed all security agencies not to supply manpower to Iraq after the Mumbai-based Trig company incident, why are they not monitoring the presence of foreign companies who are allegedly still sending security guards to Iraq via Dubai and other places," questioned another industry insider.
Allegedly employing middle-level players and some higher officials in India, the foreign detective agencies do not "come clean" about the nature of their setup in India, says an APDI member. "Their presence in the country can be highly detrimental," he says.