New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency Friday arrested the key conspirator in the Visakhapatnam espionage case from Mumbai for allegedly luring Navy officials, gathering information related to Indian naval ships and submarines and passing it on to his handlers based in Pakistan.
He has been identified as Mohammed Haroon Haji Abdul Rehman Lakdawala (49), a resident of Mumbai.
Haroon, the NIA claimed, was a conduit and played a key role in the “international espionage racket” run by people based in Pakistan and different locations in India.
“Pakistan-based spies recruited agents in India for collecting sensitive and classified information regarding locations and movement of Indian Naval Ships and submarines, and other defence establishments,” an officer in the NIA said in a statement.
According to the NIA, some Pakistani nationals got in touch with a few Navy personnel through social media platforms, including Facebook and WhatsApp.
They then trapped the personnel and lured them into sharing classified information in exchange for money, the NIA claimed.
The money, the agency said, was deposited into the bank accounts of the Navy personnel through Indian associates having business interests in Pakistan.
“Haroon was one such associate of the Pakistani handlers in India. He first got in touch with these Navy personnel and then took information from them in exchange for money. He then passed on that information to his handlers in Pakistan,” the officer told ThePrint.
During investigations, the NIA found that Haroon visited Karachi on many occasions to meet his handlers under the guise of conducting cross-border trade.
“During these visits, he came in contact with two Pakistani spies — Akbar and Rizwan — who directed him to deposit money into the bank accounts of Navy personnel at regular intervals. The same was done through different means,” the officer said.
“We have details of these transactions, which is a key link in the case,” he added.
Case so far
A case in this regard was registered in Hyderabad in December 2019 under criminal conspiracy, Officials Secrets Act and the UAPA.
So far, 14 accused have been arrested, including 11 Navy personnel and one Pakistani born Indian national identified as Shaista Qaiser.
“Further investigation in the case is on. During searches at Haroon’s house, we found a number of digital devices and incriminating documents, which have been seized,” the officer said.