An employee of the military engineering services under the Government of India was held for allegedly sharing classified information with Pakistani military intelligence after being honey-trapped on Facebook, in the Indian state of Haryana.
Police, in a statement, said the bust was the result of a joint operation between Military Intelligence (MI) in Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow unit and the Special Task Force of Haryana, as the accused was arrested on Wednesday in the state's Rewari district.
As per an official from Lucknow’s MI unit, it was understood in June that a mobile number used by Mahesh Kumar, 28, a cleaning staffer at the Military Engineering Services (MES) posted in Jaipur, a city in Rajasthan, is sharing sensitive military information.
He was sharing it with a young woman associated with Pakistani MI for money.
“It was learnt that Kumar addressed the Pakistani operative as "Madamji" following which an operation was launched by Lucknow’s MI unit to identify the suspect and ascertain the facts of the input,” the official told Sputnik while requesting anonymity.
An initial investigation revealed that Kumar is a friend in at least three known and established Pakistani Intelligence Operative (PIO)-run Facebook accounts.
“The information about Kumar was shared with Haryana Police and he was apprehended on Wednesday afternoon along with his mobile phone,” the official said.
During questioning, Kumar admitted to have come in contact with a known PIO-run Facebook account in the name of 'Harleen Gill' in July 2018. He had sent the Facebook friend request to the PIO-run account.
“They used to communicate through text and audio or video chat on Facebook messenger. The account was run by a young woman, in her thirties, who claimed to be working with the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (PCDA) office in the Jalandhar, Punjab. The PIO's Facebook account (in name of 'Harleen Gill') subsequently got deactivated,” the officer said.
It has been learned that in 2019, he got another friend request from the same PIO, from a Facebook account with the name 'Harman Kour'. They started communicating on Facebook messenger and later established contact on WhatsApp.
The accused was found to have been in touch with at least two WhatsApp numbers from the PIO. They exchanged text and audio messages between them over WhatsApp and also used video chat.
“Kumar accepted to have shared the ORBAT (Order of Battle, terminology for field formation) of a Jaipur-based Army Brigade, the details of some senior officers in Jaipur, the location of PCDA Jaipur, details of MES complaint records, the COVID-19 state of the Jaipur cantonment and a posting order of civilian MES employees,” the official added.
Kumar allegedly used to collect movement-related information by striking a conversation with service personnel coming to the Jaipur MES office for various purposes.
He also purportedly confessed to have activated a WhatsApp number for the PIO by sharing a one-time password (OTP) in 2019. However, he claims that he took it back within a couple of days.
The official narrated that to lure Mahesh Kumar, the PIO once assured him that she will get him posted to Delhi. Kumar also admitted to have shared his Punjab National Bank account details to the PIO and received INR 5,000 ($67 approx.) twice in his bank account as a gift from her in September 2019 and Jan 2020. “However, it is suspected that he had received money from the PIO on more occasions.”
Officials have revealed the accused was found to have deleted all his chats with PIOs.
The agencies (Lucknow Miltary Intelligence and Haryana Special Task Force) stated that Kumar appears to have passed on more information to the Pakistan sources than what he has confessed.
“His mobile phone was sent for forensic extraction and that special task force found many documents in it which he was not supposed to keep. Traces of his communication and passage of information to the PIO have been found as well,” the officer said.
Kumar has been booked under violation of Official Secret Act in Haryana state.