New Delhi: An Indian military employee from Rewari in Haryana was arrested for “passing classified information to a Pakistani Military intelligence” unit after getting honey-trapped on Facebook.
The man identified as Mahesh Kumar, 28, son of Rajendra Singh was an employee of Defence’s Military Engineering Services (MES) wing in Jaipur.
According to a report published by a Delhi based news organisation ZeeNews, based on a specific input of Lucknow based Military Intelligence (MI), the Special Task Force (STF) of the Haryana Police arrested Mahesh Kumar on September 16.
Kumar, according to the police, was in touch with operatives of the Pakistani Military intelligence unit since the last two and a half years and has received money from them on multiple occasions.
In June, the Lucknow MI received an input that user of a mobile number, used by 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.
The report added that Kumar was addressing the Pakistani operative as “Madamji”. An operation code-named “Operation Madamji” was launched by the MI unit to identify the suspect and ascertain the veracity of the input.
He had a friendship with at least three known and established Pakistani Intelligence Operative (PIO) run Facebook accounts.
Kumar, according to report, received at least two payments of Rs 5,000 each from his Pakistani 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, Mahesh Kumar was found staying around Rewari and without losing any time the case was shared 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 September 13-14. However before Lucknow MI could obtain desired sanctions and place a team near Rewari, the suspect suddenly moved out of Haryana.
On September 16, STF Haryana indicated that the suspect is likely to visit Rewari again and a fresh apprehensions plan was worked out for Thursday or Friday (September 18) jointly.
Jaipur-based MI unit also joined the investigation. After the arrival of the suspect at Rewari on Wednesday, the STF team learnt that he has plans to leave Haryana by afternoon.
Later on Wednesday afternoon, Kumar was apprehended by STF Haryana 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 Mahesh Kumar admitted to having come in contact with “PIO run Facebook account in the name of Harleen Gill” in July 2018, wherein he only had sent the friend request to the user.
Later on, both began communicating 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, the report mentioned.
Kumar, according to report, 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 status of the Jaipur Cantt and posting order of civilian MES employees.
The Defence employee used to 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 claimed that he took it back within a couple of days.
Besides this, Kumar was asked to send the contact of other serving personnel in Jaipur and Bikaner, details of units moving out or coming in of/to Jaipur, state of COVID in Jaipur Cantt, posting details of other MES employees. To lure him more the PIO has once assured the accused that she will get him posted to Delhi.
In order to receive money, he also admitted to having passed on his Punjab National Bank account details to the PIO and received Rs 5,000 twice in the bank account as a gift from her in September 2019 and January 2020. However, the police officers investigating the case suspect that he has received money from the PIO on more number of occasions. Further investigation in this regard is in progress.
Through the accused is a 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 related circulars and list of MES employees with their mobile numbers in his handset, the report said.
During the investigation, it was also learnt that in two and a half years of communication with PIO, the accused has passed more than what he is confessing.
His mobile phone has been sent for forensic extraction and it is learnt that STF has found many documents in it that he was not supposed to keep. Apart from that, traces of his communication and passage of information to the PIO were also learnt to have been found.
Booked under violation of Official Secret Act, the accused was produced before the Duty Magistrate on September 16, night. In this regard, police have registered a First Information Report against him at Police Station Dharuhera.
The report added that Haryana STF may ask for police remand for few more days for further investigation into the case and to complete the formalities.
The Indian defence authorities believe that many are still getting carried away and still getting “honey-trapped on social media by Pakistani agencies.”
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