Wednesday 28 October 2020

Cleaner in military engineering gives info on army to Pakistani ‘madam ji’

Though the accused is a cleaning staff in MES Jaipur whose primary task is to clean offices there, Kumar was found to have photos of several letters

Police arrested a civilian defence employee recently for passing on classified information to a Pakistani Military Intelligence (MI) unit after he was honey-trapped on Facebook. Official sources said that the Haryana Police’s Special Task Force (STF) on 16 September arrested Mahesh Kumar, the cleaner (a civilian employee) of Military Engineering Services (MES), from Rewari for sharing the information to a young woman associated with the Pakistani MI in return for money.

Kumar, according to police, was in touch with operatives of the Pakistani MI unit for the last two and a half years. He has received money from them on several occasions, the cops said.

Sources said that in June, Lucknow MI had received an input that a mobile number used by Kumar, who was posted in Jaipur, was passing on defence-related information to a woman working for the Pakistan Army. The cleaner addressed 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.

After investigation, Kumar worked as a cleaner in MES Jaipur and was friends with at least three known and established Pakistani Intelligence Operative (PIO)-run Facebook accounts.

Sources said that Kumar had 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, the cleaner was found staying in and around Rewari. The MI shared the case details with the STF Haryana and a joint team of both the agencies investigated it further.

A swift operation to apprehend and interrogate the suspect was planned for 13-14 September.

However before the Lucknow MI could obtain desired sanctions and place a team near Rewari, the suspect suddenly moved out of Haryana, the sources said.

The STF Haryana recently indicated that Kumar was likely to visit Rewari again on 16 September. As a result, STF Haryana and Lucknow and Jaipur units of MI formulated a new plan to arrest him.

After the arrest of the cleaner on 16 September in the afternoon, Kumar’s mobile phone was seized and he was taken for initial examination and question.

Teams of MI Lucknow, STF Haryana and MI Jaipur jointly questioned the MES cleaner.

Official sources said during, questioning. Kumar admitted to having sent a friend request to a Facebook account with the name ‘Harleen Gill’ in July 2018. They became friends on Facebook and used to communicate through text and audio/video chats via Messenger.

A woman of Indian origin, likely in her 30s who claimed to be working with the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (PCDA) office in Jalandhar, operated the account. However, the PIO’s Facebook account ‘Harleen Gill’ deactivated after several months.

Later, Kumar 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 MES cleaner 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.

Sources said Kumar admitted before the police that he had 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 cantonment and order of posting of civilian MES employees.

The MES cleaner used to gather movement-related information by striking conversations with service personnel coming to Jaipur MES office for various purposes. He admitted to having activated a WhatsApp number for the PIO by sharing OTP in 2019. However, he claims that he took it back within a couple of days.

The PIO used to ask Kumar to send contacts of other serving personnel in Jaipur and Bikaner, details of units moving in or out of Jaipur, posting details of other MES employees. To lure him more, the PIO once promised him that she will get him posted to Delhi.

The cleaner admitted to having passed on his Punjab National Bank account details to the PIO and to have received Rs 5,000 twice in his account as a gift from her in September 2019 and January 2020. However it is suspected that he had received money from the PIO on several occasions, sources said.

Though the accused is a cleaning staff in MES Jaipur whose primary task is to clean offices there, he was found to have photos of several letters and notices in his mobile device including some with security classification and some giving out the details of all units and sub-units in Jaipur Cantonment. He had photos of COVID-19 related circulars and a list of MES employees with their mobile numbers in his handset.

The cleaner was found to have deleted all his chats with PIOs. It seems during the two and half years of communication with the PIO the accused has passed more than what he is confessing, sources said.

Kumar’s mobile phone was 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 learnt to have been found.

Police produced the accused before the Duty Magistrate on 16 September in the night. He has been booked under violation of Official Secret Act and an FIR has been lodged on 17 September.

Kumar is expected to be produced before a court in Rewar after undergoing a COVID-19 test.

The Haryana STF may ask for police remand of the MES cleaner for a few more days for further investigation into the case and to complete the formalities.

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