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How Pak is using Facebook honey-traps to ensnare Indian defence personnel

Fake accounts in the name of girls are being used by Pakistan’s intelligence services to befriend, lure and blackmail Indian defence personnel into committing espionage, the Delhi Crime Branch told a city court on Tuesday.

india Updated: Dec 30, 2015 10:38 IST
Avantika Mehta
Avantika Mehta
Hindustan Times
IAF official caught 'spying',Indian Air Force,Damini McNaught
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency has been using social networking site Facebook as a honey trap to gather secret and confidential information about the armed forces, police hinted on Tuesday.(Shutterstock)

Pakistan’s intelligence agencies are using fake social media accounts with female names to befriend, lure and sometimes blackmail India’s defence personnel into committing espionage, Delhi Police told a city court on Tuesday.

The revelations came after the arrest of former Leading Aircraftsman KK Ranjith from Punjab’s Bathinda airforce base for allegedly sharing secret documents with Pakistani agencies.

“In May 2012, the LAC came in contact with a Pakistan intelligence officer named Damini McNaught who cultivated the air force warrior by luring him to work as a defence analyst for a UK-based magazine,” cops told the court.

They added the 24-year-old single man – who was arrested under the Official Secrets Act on Monday -- also had another female handler named Alphonsine Davis.

Cross-border spies fooled Ranjith by calling his mobile phone over the internet with the other party introducing herself – in a British accent – as McNaught and posing as an executive of a UK-based news magazine, Delhi police crime branch team told reporters.

“She even interviewed LAC Ranjith and assigned him the task of getting the information. She deceived him by saying the information will be published and he will get due monetary benefits for this,” said the team, led by ACP KPS Malhotra.

Read: Air force ex-official honey-trapped into ‘spying’ for ISI, arrested

During the brief hearing, cops said Ranjith passed “sensitive information related to the Air Force and other vital defence information through Facebook and email to Damini and Alphonsine”. For this, he got Rs. 30,000 in total in two separate payments of Rs. 25,000 and Rs. 5,000 made on October 13 and 14, they alleged.

But he may not have been the only one to be trapped. “A few serving defence personnel are being pulled into the espionage network through these honey traps. Some fictitious Facebook accounts of women are being used for this,” joint commissioner of police (crime branch) Ravindra Yadav told IANS.

The inquiry indicates Pakistani officials also use other methods to get information from Indian defence personnel. “These cyber profiles deploy the method of blackmailing or deception to extract secret and confidential defence information without revealing their actual identity,” officials said.

However, when police asked for five days of police custody, the court noted the remand papers did not make out a case for custodial interrogation for that period.

To this, the cops added the accused needed to be taken to Gwalior and Jaisalmer for continued investigation of the case.

“At the instance of the accused,” they needed to confront him with his associates, Indian counterparts of the Pakistani Intelligence Officials (PIO) and “his associates from where he also obtained information sent to the PIOs,” cops said.

The court then granted four days custody and said Ranjith would be produced before the concerned court on January 2.

First Published: Dec 29, 2015 20:22 IST