BrahMos engineer's arrest: UP ATS gets 3-day transit remand

Suspected ISI agent Nishant Agrawal (face covered with scarf) who was arrested by Uttar Pradesh ATS recently on charges of being an ISI agent, at his residence in Nagpur, Monday, Oct 08, 2018. | Photo: PTI

Nagpur: BrahMos Aerospace engineer Nishant Agrawal, arrested on charges of espionage, was in touch with suspected Pakistani intelligence operatives through two Facebook accounts - 'Neha Sharma' and 'Pooja Ranjan', according to the Uttar Pradesh Police.

The UP Police's Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATC) stated this in the court of Junior Magistrate First Class S M Joshi here Tuesday while seeking Agrawal's transit remand for taking him to Lucknow for a detailed interrogation.

The court granted three-day transit remand to the UP ATS, Additional Public Prosecutor S J Bagde, who appeared for Maharashtra ATS, said.

Agrawal was arrested Monday in a joint operation by the ATS units of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra police at BrahMos' Wardha Road facility for allegedly leaking 'technical information' to Pakistan.

BrahMos Aerospace is a joint venture between India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the 'Military Industrial Consortium' (NPO Mashinostroyenia) of Russia.

The Investigating Officer of the UP ATS told the court that Agrawal was in touch with two Facebook accounts, operated under the names 'Neha Sharma' and 'Pooja Ranjan'.

These accounts, based out of Islamabad, are believed to be run by Pakistan's intelligence operatives, the ATS officer said.

Such fake accounts are reportedly used to approach senior officials in India and Agrawal too was approached by those operating these two Facebook accounts, the IO told the court.

Agrawal, despite being engaged in 'highly sensitive work,' was 'casual' on the internet and made himself an 'easy target,' the ATS officer said. He said Agrawal was active on LinkedIn also.

Top classified information had been loaded on the accused's personal laptop, the officer said.

He added that classified registered files with red markings were found stored in PDF (portable document format) in the accused's personal laptop.

"These are all top classified information which, if shared, could be a threat to the country. We want to conduct a detailed interrogation and produce him in the special court in Lucknow, and, hence, request three-days transit remand," the IO told the court.

The accused has been charged under sections 3,4, 5, and 9 of the Official Secrets Act, sections 419,420, 467, 468, 120 (B), and 121 (A) of the Indian Penal Code as well as 66 (B) of the Information Technology Act.

Nishant Agrawal's father Pradip Agrawal said he did not believe that his son was guilty and has faith in the judiciary.

"I don't think he is guilty. But if he is found guilty and system proves that he is guilty, then yes, he is guilty," Pradip Agrawal said on his son's arrest.

ATS sources in Uttar Pradesh's Lucknow Monday said a computer was seized from his Nagpur residence which contained secret documents. They said such documents should not be present on a personal computer.

The sources said an old computer was also seized from Agrawal's residence in his native town, Roorkee, and its contents were being investigated.

They said since a jawan was arrested in September after allegedly being honey-trapped by the ISI, the ATS was keeping a close watch on fake Facebook accounts of women, being operated from Pakistan, which were in touch with people working in sensitive places.

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