Delhi journalist allegedly involved in Chinese spy racket got Hawala money

Sharma, a freelance journalist, was arrested on September 14, 2020 by Delhi police’s special cell for passing on classified information to Chinese intelligence agencies.
New Delhi: In this handout photo provided by Delhi Police, Delhi Police arrested freelance journalist Rajeev Sharma, who was allegedly found in possession of defence-related classified documents, in connection with a case, under the Official Secrets Act, yesterday, in New Delhi, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. (PTI Photo)(PTI19-09-2020_000125B) (PTI)
New Delhi: In this handout photo provided by Delhi Police, Delhi Police arrested freelance journalist Rajeev Sharma, who was allegedly found in possession of defence-related classified documents, in connection with a case, under the Official Secrets Act, yesterday, in New Delhi, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. (PTI Photo)(PTI19-09-2020_000125B) (PTI)
Updated on Aug 06, 2021 03:44 AM IST
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By Prawesh Lama, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Alleged Chinese spies paid journalist Rajeev Sharma through Hawala transactions in exchange for sensitive information, four protected witnesses identified in the police charge sheet as W, X, Y and Z have told the court in their statements, officials privy to the investigation in the case said.

The four witnesses, who claimed to have interacted with Sharma until his arrest in September last year, recorded their statements before a judge under Code of Criminal Procedure 164 in November 2020. Their statements, attached to the charge sheet, are admissible evidence during trial.

Sharma, a freelance journalist, was arrested on September 14, 2020 by Delhi police’s special cell for passing on classified information to Chinese intelligence agencies. Along with Sharma, the police also arrested a Chinese woman named Qing Shi and a Nepalese man Sher Singh alias Sher Bahadur. Sharma and Qing, police said, ran shell companies through which they received money from Chinese agencies. The Enforcement Directorate that is carrying out a parallel investigation against Sharma in a money laundering case against him, arrested the freelance scribe last month.

The police filed the charge sheet in the case on April 2021. It is on the basis of this charge sheet and evidence submitted in court by police that ED registered a case against Sharma.

In the charge sheet, witness Y said he collected money from a Chinese national and handed it to Sharma as remuneration for passing the information. Another person identified as Z said he received over $5000 from a foreign account in his bank account for Sharma. Z said Sharma requested him to collect money on his behalf.

Another person, who is not a protected witness, told the police that he used to manage Sharma’s YouTube account and that the journalist asked him to collect money from the Chinese on his behalf. His statement is also a part of the charge sheet.

Two other protected witnesses, X and W, in their statements said that they supplied Hawala money to Qing Shi in Yuan. They also alleged that Qing asked them to exchange the Chinese currency in Indian rupees several times.

Police have said Sharma was in contact with a Chinese intelligence official, identified only as Michael, since 2016, and with another Chinese person identified as George, since 2019. Police have also named a third Chinese intelligence official Xao, who is invovled in the case.

Sharma allegedly sent Michael classified information related to Indian army deployment on the China-Bhutan-India tri-junction, including Doklam. Police in the charge sheet have also attached a report from the Director General of Military Intelligence confirming that the documents police recovered from Sharma’s house were classified. It also mentioned that Sharma passed on information related to Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama and Indo-China relations. The papers that police seized have been submitted to the court in a sealed cover.

Police are still probing how Sharma managed to get hold of the sensitive documents. Police have mentioned in the charge sheet that “despite sincere efforts” there were unable to trace Sharma’s source who provided him the classified documents.

“His handler George used to send the money to him through India-based shell companies MZ Mall and MZ Pharmacy situated at Mahipalpur, being run by Chinese nationals Zhang Zheng, Zhang Lixia and Qing Shing. Zhang Zheng and Zhang Lixia left for China and could not return due to the Covid-19 situation. The companies were being run by Qing,” police said in the charge sheet adding that Qing, and the third accused Sher Singh were named as directors of these shell companies.

As evidence, police have also attached a Kotak Mahindra bank account linked to MZ Mall, which showed transactions of around 2 crore. Police also attached Sharma’s travel record to China and Maldives and added that during these visits Sharma was meeting Chinese intelligence officers George and Michael.

Sharma’s counsel Amish Aggarwala dismissed the allegations as false, and said they will approach the high court for quashing of charges.

“These are false charges. Police filed charge sheet without recording any statement u/s 164 or 161 CrPC, of any official of ministry of defence or the armed forces claiming that any secret/ classified document was missing or stolen or handed over to my client. In case, any such document was stolen/ removed, then these matter would have reported to high ups and the Police, which was not done here,” Aggarwala said.

He also said that because no case was made out from the charge sheet, the court has not taken cognizance. “I requested court even today to take cognizance but it has been posted for November 15, 2021. The charge sheet also does not proved that he was working for any Chinese agent. We are going to file case in the Delhi high court for quashing charges. Also, if the documents were supplied to my client, then police should investigate, who supplied it. Police are silent on this. My client can’t manufacture the classified/ secret documents. On the contrary, the charge sheet include a letter from the air force that the seized documents are not secret/classified,” Aggarwala said.

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Monday, October 18, 2021