Operation Desert Chase: 2 arrested in Rajasthan for sharing confidential details with Pakistan
The special branch of Rajasthan Police on Monday arrested two civil defence employees on espionage charges. Both the employees – Vikas Kumar (29) and Chimal Lal (22) – were passing information to the Pakistani intelligence agency, the police said. They work at an Army Ammunition Depot in Sri Ganganagar district.
The arrests were made based on the inputs provided by Military Intelligence (MI).
“Both the accused were found sharing confidential information with Pakistan’s intelligence agency. Both were arrested under relevant sections of Official Secrets Act, 1923. Further investigation is on,” said Umesh Mishra, additional director general of police (ADGP), Intelligence.
Another senior police official related to this case said that the Military Intelligence found out about Kumar in August last year.
“On further investigation, the MI Lucknow came to know that Vikas Kumar was cultivated by a Pakistani intelligence operative using a Facebook profile in the garb of “Anoshka Chopra” being run from Multan, Pakistan by a young Pakistani woman. Kumar was sharing confidential military information related to ORBAT (Order of Battle; composition and order of a military fighting formation), ammunition (photos, state, quantity, type, arrival, departure), units coming for firing practice , military exercise to MFFR, personality traits of senior army officers in lieu of money. It was also found that Kumar was receiving payments in three of his (and his brother’s) bank accounts,” said the police officer.
The MI shared the case with Uttar Pradesh Police’s Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) in January this year. Kumar’s activities were monitored and analysed by a joint team of MI Lucknow and UP ATS. The operation was code named ‘Desert Chase’.
“During surveillance, it was found that Kumar is acquiring photos of a water distribution register at a water point, pump house in MFFR through a contractual civil employee named Chiman Lal. The operation was halted due to start of the lockdown. Finally, the case was shared with Rajasthan Police’s intelligence wing in the first week of May. A joint team was formed between Rajasthan Police’s intelligence wing and MI Lucknow, and all the findings were analysed again. Further details were acquired and conclusive evidences were gathered. Fresh payments were detected and so were passage of more information to Pakistan after which the accused were arrested,” the police official added.
The police said that Kumar confessed during questioning that he had received a friend request from the Facebook Profile Anoshka Chopra in the month of March/April last year and had accepted it.
They became very friendly, shared their WhatsApp numbers with each other and even started chatting and making audio/video calls.
“She used an Indian WhatsApp number and claim she is working with Canteen Store Department (CSD) headquarters at Mumbai. Kumar joined several WhatsApp groups as she asked him to. She was in all these groups and there were many serving defence and civil defence employees in them. Subsequently, she introduced Vikas Kumar to her ‘boss’, Amit Kumar Singh (pseudo name used by the handler) who was also using an Indian WhatsApp number,” another police official said on the condition of the anonymity.
The officer further added that he at times claimed to be from from Military Engineer Service (MES). Once Vikas and the Pakistani handler started communicating, ‘Anoshka Chopra’ blocked her from her Facebook and WhatsApp. “The handler convinced Vikas to send him military information in exchange for money. Hence the sequence of tasking by the handler and reporting by Kumar started around end of April 2019. Most of the information Vikas Kumar had passed on to his handler was found to have been acquired himself and some through Chiman Lal. Both the accused used to regularly send photos of water distribution register kept at one of the Pump House of MFFR with details of Army No, rank, name, unit, total strength & quantity of water drawn on almost daily basis,” the police official added.
Kumar has confessed to have received at least Rs 75,000 in total from his Pakistani handler (in smaller lots) for the information he has shared during this entire period. He used to receive them mostly on bank accounts of his and his brother, Hemant Kumar.
Both the individuals are likely to be produced before a local court soon by the police. A police remand may be requested for further examination.