NIA arrests 2019 espionage, terror-funding plotter


New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency on Saturday arrested a terror funding conspirator from Mumbai in the 2019 Visakhapatnam espionage case involving Pakistan-based spies who had honey-trapped some junior level Navy personnel via social media for collecting sensitive information about location and movements of Indian naval ships and submarines.

Abdul Rehman Abdul Jabbar Sheikh, 53, was arrested from his residence based on inputs shared during questioning of the arrested accused in the case and technical analysis.

The agency recovered a number of digital devices and incriminating documents during a search at Abdul Rehman's residence, an official said, adding further investigation is continuing.

Abdul Rehman is the 15th accused arrested in the case so far. His wife Shaista Quaiser, a Pakistan-born Indian woman, was among 14 others who were arrested earlier. The arrested also include 11 Navy personnel. On May 15, the NIA also arrested Mohammed Haroon Haji Abdul Rehman Lakdawala, 49, from Mumbai.

All of them along with others were involved in terror funding.

The NIA took over the case on December 29 last year. The case was originally registered on November 16, 2019, at CI Cell division of Andhra Pradesh Police under criminal conspiracy and waging or attempting to wage war against Indian government of Indian Penal Code (IPC), and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Section 3 of Official Secrets Act.

The 2019 Visakhapatnam espionage case relates to an international racket involving individuals based in Pakistan and at different locations in India, including Visakhapatnam and Mumbai. It included agents in India recruited by Pakistan-based spies between 2011 and 2019.

They were collecting sensitive and classified information about locations or movements of Indian naval ships and submarines and other defence establishments. Investigation revealed that a few Navy personnel came in contact with Pakistani nationals through various social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp.

Through chats and messages, often comprising sexually-explicit content, exchanged with accounts of Inter-Services Intelligence agents posing as young women, the Indian recruits were lured into sharing classified information in lieu of monetary gains.

The money was deposited into the bank accounts of the Navy personnel through Indian associates having business interests in Pakistan.

The espionage racket was busted in an operation code-named 'Dolphin's Nose', jointly executed by naval intelligence, Central agencies and Andhra Pradesh State Intelligence wing.

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