IAF officer ‘honey-trapped’ by Pakistan’s ISI was posted in sensitive defence unit
Group Captain Arun Marwaha, arrested for leaking secret information on national security, was posted in one of the most sensitive units of the defence ministry in an earlier assignment, people familiar with the matter said on Friday .
Marwaha is said to have told police that he worked in the Aerial Delivery Research and Development Division (ADRD) till March 2016. The ADRD, under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), is involved in the highly sensitive airborne warning and control system for the Indian Air Force (IAF), said a defence analyst who did not wish to be named.
Police will probe if Marwaha forwarded information from the DRDO. The defence analyst said in view of this revelation, the standard operating procedures (SOPs) of India’s security framework needed urgent revision.
Delhi Police arrested Marwaha on Friday, a day after filing a case against him under the Official Secrets Act. The 56-year-old para-instructor currently posted at the IAF headquarters as Joint Director (Operations) has been accused of taking photographs of ‘confidential’ defence documents and sending them via WhatsApp to Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence.
An Indian Air Force spokesman said the officer was under scrutiny for some time and has now been handed over to the Delhi Police. “Law will take its own course,” he said.
The initial probe revealed that Marwaha, who befriended two women on Facebook five-six months ago, started chatting with them on the social network and later switched to WhatsApp to communicate.
A senior investigating officer said that the two mobile numbers to which the documents were sent are both Indian. Police seized the Samsung smartphone he used to take pictures in the IAF headquarters along with his other phones. Till a day before he was caught, he sent some documents, police said.
Police said Marwaha was honeytrapped by Pakistan’s spy agency using fake Facebook profiles by the names of Kiran Randhawa and Mahima Patel. The two accounts were deactivated by the users after Marwaha was detained by the IAF on January 31 for allegedly leaking classified information.
“It was a honeytrap. Initially, there were lewd chats and images exchanged with the two users. Later, this escalated to Marwaha sending confidential data through WhatsApp. We suspect he was blackmailed although he is denying this,” said an officer.
Marwaha has reportedly admitted he sent around five documents. Police are verifying his claims and have seized his cellphones, which will be sent for forensic examination. An officer said Marwaha allegedly sent documents related to training exercises of the Marine Commando Force (MARCOS) and GARUD Commando Force. Marcos is a specialised force in counter-terrorism operations. GARUD commandos are responsible for protection of critical air force bases and conducting rescue operations. Marwaha trained commandos of such special forces.
Police said prima facie, it appears Marwaha caught the attention of the ISI because he was very active on Facebook and uploaded photographs of his jumps and other non-classified exercises of the IAF on the social networking site.