New Delhi: Based specific input of Lucknow based MI, Haryana Police's STF arrested a civilian employee of Military Engineering Services (MES) from Rewari, for passing classified information to a Pakistani Military Intelligence unit after getting honey-trapped on Facebook.
He was reportedly in touch with operatives of the Pakistani MI unit since two and half years and has received money from them on multiple occasions.
As per sources, In the month of June Lucknow MI received an input that user of a mobile number (not disclose), used by one Mahesh Kumar, likely a Military Engineering Services (MES) employee posted in Jaipur, Rajasthan is sharing sensitive military information to a young woman associated with Pakistani MI in return of money.
“It was learnt that he address the Pakistani operative as "Madamji". An operation code-named "Op Madamji" was launched by the MI unit to identify the suspect and ascertain the veracity of the input,” a senior official associated with the operation said.
Mahesh Kumar - 28 years Rewari (Haryana) is a civilian cleaning staff in MES Jaipur (Rajasthan) and is in friendship with at least three known and established Pakistani Intelligence Operative (PIO) run Facebook accounts.
It was also learnt that Mahesh Kumar has received at least two payments of Rs 5000/- each from his Pak handlers via Kerala.
The payment module was very similar to what had surfaced in the Rajasthan based espionage case, 'Op Desert Chase' wherein Vikas Kumar and Chiman Lal were arrested.
In the first week of September, Kumar was found staying in/around Rewari, Haryana.
Without losing any time the case was shared with with STF Haryana and a joint team of both the agencies started developing it further.
A swift operation to apprehend and interrogate the suspect was planned for 13/14 September. However before Lucknow MI could obtain desired sanctions and place a team near Rewari, the suspect suddenly moved out of Haryana.
Subsequently STF Haryana indicated that the suspect is likely to visit Rewari again on Wednesday.
Hence a fresh apprehensions plan was worked out for Thursday or Friday jointly. Jaipur based MI unit also joined the investigation.
After arrival of the suspect at Rewari on Wednesday, the STF team learnt that he has plans to leave Haryana by afternoon and thus he was apprehended by STF Haryana on Wednesday afternoon from Rewari along with his mobile device and was taken for initial examination and question. The accused was subjected to joint questioning by the teams of MI Lucknow, STF Haryana and MI Jaipur.
During questioning Kumar admitted to have come in contact with known PIO run Facebook account in the name of 'Harleen Gill' in July 2018, wherein he only had sent the friend request to the PIO run account.
They became friend on Facebook and used to communicate through text and audio/video chat on Facebook messenger. The account was run by a young woman, likely in her thirties who claimed to be working with Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (PCDA) office in Jalandhar. The PIO's Facebook account (in name of 'Harleen Gill') subsequently got deactivated.
Later, he got a friend-request from the same PIO in 2019 this time from a Facebook account with the name of 'Harman Kour'. They started communicating on Facebook messenger and later graduated to WhatsApp. The accused was found to have been in touch with at least two WhatsApp numbers of the PIO. They used to exchange text and audio messages between them over WhatsApp and also used to video chat.
He accepted to have shared the ORBAT of a Jaipur based Army Brigade, details of some senior officers in Jaipur, location of PCDA Jaipur, details of MES complaint records, COVID-19 state of the Jaipur cantt and a posting order of civilian MES employees.
He used gather movement related information from by striking conversation with service personnel coming to Jaipur MES office for various purposes. He also accepted to have activated a WhatsApp number for the PIO by sharing OTP in 2019. However he claims that he it took back within a couple of days.
The PIO used ask him to send contact of other serving personnel in Jaipur/Bikaner, details of units moving out or coming in of/to Jaipur, state of COVID-19 in Jaipur cantt, posting details of other MES employees. To lure him more the PIO has once assured the accused that she shall get him posted to Delhi.
Kumar admitted to have passed on his Punjab National Bank account details to the PIO and to have received Rs 5,000/- twice in the bank account as gift from her in September 2019 and Jan 2020. However it is suspected that he had received money from the PIO on more number of occasions. Further investigation in this regard are in progress.
Through the accused is an cleaning staff in MES Jaipur whose primary task is to clean offices there, he was found have photos of several letters/ notices in his mobile device including some with security classification and some giving out the details of all unit/sub-units in Jaipur Cantt. He also had photos of COVID-19 related circulars and list of MES employees with their mobile numbers in his handset.
The accused was found to have deleted all his chats with PIOs. It seems during the two and half year of communication with the PIO the accused has passed more than what he is confessing.
His mobile phone was sent for forensic extraction and it is learnt that STF has found many documents in it that he was not suppose to keep. Apart from that traces of his communication and passage of information to the PIO were also learnt to have been found.
The accused was produced before the Duty Magistrate last night. He has been booked under violation of Official Secret Act and an FIR, No 0303, in this regard has been lodged at PS Dharuhera today. He is expected to be produced before a court in Rewari by afternoon today after undergoing a COVID-19 test. The Haryana STF may ask for police remand for few more days for further investigation into the case and to complete the formalities.
While several instructions and policies are being formulated and passed at regular interval by defence authorities for making all ranks get aware about the nuances of the Pakistani espionage network, it seems many are still getting carried away and still getting honey-trapped on social media by Pakistani agencies.