Cleartrip faces data theft, criminal conspiracy charges

Cleartrip faces data theft, criminal conspiracy charges

Mumbai: The Gurgaon police filed a chargesheet against Cleartrip Travel Services Pvt. Ltd based on a complaint by rival Travelocity, the Indian unit of LP, for data theft and criminal conspiracy.

The charges include accusations of collusion, abetment, misappropriation, money laundering, criminal breach of trust and conspiracy. The case will be next heard on 20 July. Mint has reviewed a copy of the chargesheet, which was filed on 30 May, and confirmed its contents with the police.

Cleartrip said it was yet to receive details of the accusations.

“The investigating agency had filed their report in the court five months ago," a Cleartrip spokesperson said in an email to Mint. “Till date, we are yet to receive the complete charge sheet along with the findings of the investigating agency. As the matter is sub judice, we are not able to comment further."

A complaint, filed by Himanshu Singh, managing director (India) at Travelocity, on 11 December 2009, alleged that one of its former employees, Amit Taneja, and Cleartrip chief executive officer Stuart Crighton along with other other executives of the company entered a criminal conspiracy to steal proprietary data, its computer database and other information, resulting in wrongful loss.

Travelocity had acquired online hotel agency firm DV Travels Guru Pvt. Ltd (which ran the website TravelGuru) along with its subsidiary Desiya Online Travel Distribution Pvt. Ltd in 2006. Taneja was earlier managing director of Desiya and is currently a director at Cleartrip.

This case had led to the arrest of Crighton for violations of the Information Technology (IT) Act.

“This is an important case. This will lay the base for unauthorized transfer of intellectual property of similar IT companies by employees while thy are switching to a new job," said Alok Mittal, joint commissioner of police, Gurgaon. “In this case, we have a solid case backed with computer forensic lab reports and evidence."

Mittal said the police may refer the case to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) since there are accusations of money laundering.

The chargesheet said Taneja had been offered a 1.5% equity stake by Cleartrip in exchange for the information. According to the chargesheet, Travelocity has suffered a loss of 20 crore.

The case is a landmark one for Indian IT companies, said Roshan Mendis, regional vice-president, Travelocity (Asia-Pacific). He said his company is continuously looking at organic and inorganic growth in India as it is a key market.

Nasdaq-listed online travel and expense management company Concur Technologies Inc. has bought a minority stake in Cleartrip for $40 million (Rs 179.6 crore today). A clutch of venture capital firms have invested in Cleartrip, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, Sherpalo Ventures, DAG Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson.