Pak espionage ring busted as MP cops nab 11 who helped spy on India’s military
Eleven men, including a relative of a ruling BJP councillor, have been arrested by the Madhya Pradesh police’s anti-terror squad (ATS) for allegedly running an international call racket that helped Pakistan’s ISI to spy on India’s military operations.
Officials said they were allegedly operating parallel telephone exchanges using Chinese equipment and SIM-boxes.
All the 11 men have been booked under provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act, besides Section 122 and 123 of Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deal with collecting arms, information and other things for waging war against the country.
MP ATS inspector general Sanjeev Shami said five men were nabbed from Gwalior, three from Bhopal, two from Jabalpur and one from Satna. He, however, refused to speak about the political linkage of those taken into custody.
Shami said that the man arrested from Satna and identified as Balram is allegedly the mastermind of the racket.
“Investigations revealed that Satna (MP) resident Balram was funding the activities of the duo held in Jammu. Balram, who was in constant touch with Pak-based handlers, used multiple bank accounts to fund the anti-national operations of the duo arrested last year in Jammu,” he said.
The two Inter-Services Intelligence operatives, Satwindar and Dadu, were arrested from RS Pura area of Jammu district in November 2016, said Shami. They were revealing sensitive information pertaining to defence installations and camps, besides other matters of strategic importance to handlers in Pakistan.
Balram and his aides operated several parallel telephone exchanges in various cities of MP, including Bhopal, Gwalior, Jabalpur and Satna. Money was allegedly transferred from Pakistan into the bank accounts of Balram via these exchanges. It was subsequently forwarded to the two ISI operatives in Jammu.
Shami said the SIM boxes, which house SIM cards, and other equipment were being used to run the exchanges that masked the identity of callers from Pakistan and other countries.
The calls by overseas handlers were converted into local calls using SIM cards obtained on fake ID proofs and also landline numbers. The calls were made via the internet and sent to SIM boxes which redirected the VoIP traffic onto mobile networks.
This subsequently enabled ISI spies to pose as senior army officers and call up military personnel in Jammu and Kashmir to extract details of strategic operations particularly in sensitive areas near the LoC, ATS sources confided.
“We’ve seized hundreds of SIM cards from the 11 men, who were running such parallel phone exchanges in different MP town. The role of employees of some telecom companies too is under the scanner and more arrests will be made in coming days,” said Shami.
He added the arrested men were not only aiding anti-national operations through these parallel exchanges but also caused enormous revenue loss to the central government and department of telecommunications via illegal conversion of international calls into local calls.
They were also using these call centres to dabble in other illegal activities like money laundering and online lottery fraud.
The racket was busted by MP ATS in cooperation with central intelligence agencies, agencies from Jammu and Kashmir and other states, besides the Telecom Enforcement Resource and Monitoring (TERM) cell of the Union telecom ministry, said Shami.
A similar spying racket was busted by the Uttar Pradesh police ATS last month with the arrest of 11 people. The mastermind of that racket Gulshan Sen, a resident of Delhi’s Mehrauli area, is believed to be the common link between the UP and MP rackets, ATS sources said.
Those in custody include Jitendra, who is a close relative of BJP municipal councillor from Ward No 58 Vandana Satish Yadav.
Gwalior BJP district president Devesh Sharma admitted Jitendra is Yadav’s distant relative but said neither the party nor the councillor has anything to do with the arrested man.
“The law will take its own course and those responsible will not be spared,” Sharma said.
More arrests are likely by the MP ATS in coming days from other parts of the state, officials said.