Australia expels Indian spies caught trying to ‘steal secrets’, reports ABC | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Australia expels Indian spies caught trying to ‘steal secrets’, reports ABC

May 01, 2024 08:12 AM IST

A so-called “nest of spies” disrupted by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) in 2020 was also accused of closely monitoring Indians in Australia

Australia has expelled an unspecified number of Indian spies who were caught trying to “steal secrets” about sensitive defence projects and airport security, and classified information on trade relationships, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported on Tuesday.

ASIO director-general Mike Burgess had alluded to a spy ring in an annual threat assessment in 2021. (X)
ASIO director-general Mike Burgess had alluded to a spy ring in an annual threat assessment in 2021. (X)

A so-called “nest of spies” disrupted by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) in 2020 was also accused of closely monitoring Indians living in Australia and developing close relationships with current and former politicians, the national broadcaster reported.

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The revelation came against the backdrop of The Washington Post’s report that a member of India’s external intelligence agency was removed from his position over his alleged involvement in a plot to kill Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) leader Gurpatwant Pannun on American soil. The Post reported that two Indian intelligence operatives were “expelled” from Australia in 2020 following an ASIO counter-intelligence operation.

There was no immediate reaction from Indian officials on the report by the ABC.

The revelations by ABC were not entirely new as ASIO director-general Mike Burgess had alluded to a spy ring in an annual threat assessment in 2021 though he didn’t name the country behind the activity.

“The spies developed targeted relationships with current and former politicians, a foreign embassy and a state police service,” Burgess had said in a speech at ASIO’s headquarters in Canberra in March 2021.

“They monitored their country’s diaspora community. They tried to obtain classified information about Australia’s trade relationships. They asked a public servant to provide information on security protocols at a major airport,” he had said in the speech that was reported by the Australian media

Burgess also spoke about how the “nest of spies” successfully cultivated and recruited an Australian government security clearance holder with access to “sensitive details of defence technology”.

ABC said “national security and government figures” had confirmed that India’s foreign intelligence service was responsible for the “nest of spies” and that “a number” of Indian officials were removed from Australia by the government.

In an interview with the ABC while visiting the US last November, Burgess declined to say whether the Indian government’s operations had caused any concern for ASIO. He only said that Australia would deal with all “acts of foreign interference or plotting for that”.

Asked specifically about his involvement in the expulsion of Indian personnel from Australia, Burgess had said: “We don’t comment on specific operational matters but of course, from time-to-time ASIO will discover undeclared intelligence officers who are operating in our country and through our own actions or asking government to help, people can and do leave this country as a result of being found out.”

In 2022, when delivering his next Annual Threat Assessment, Burgess said that espionage is “conducted by countries we consider friends — friends with sharp elbows and voracious intelligence requirements”.

Government sources told ABC that “friendly nations believed to be particularly active with espionage operations in Australia” include Singapore, South Korea, Israel, and India.

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