Those arrested are Vikas Kumar (29), a civil defence employee at an Army Ammunition Depot near Shri Ganganagar (Rajasthan) and Chiman Lal (22), a civil contractual employee of Army’s Mahajan Field Firing Range (MFFR), Bikaner for working as espionage agents of a Pakistani intelligence agency.
“The operation assumes great importance as both, the said Ammunition Depot And MFFR are strategically important military installations in the Western Front of the country,” an official said.
The operation kicked off in August 2019 when the MI Lucknow unit sleuths learnt about an espionage agent near Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan who was passing military information to his handlers in Pakistan.
The individual has identified as Vikas Kumar a civil defence employee at an army ammunition depot near Sri Ganganagar.
It was learnt by the MI Lucknow that Vikas Kumar was cultivated by a Pakistani Intelligence Operative (PIO) using a Facebook profile in the garb of “Anoshka Chopra” being run from Multan, Pakistan by a young Pakistani woman.
The MI unit could ascertain that Vikas Kumar was passing military information related to ORBAT (Order of Battle; composition and order of a military fighting formation), ammunition (photos, state, quantity, type, arrival, departure), units coming for firing practice/ military exercise to MFFR, personality traits of senior army officers in lieu of money.
It was also found that Vikas Kumar is receiving payments in three of his (and his brother’s) bank accounts.
MI Lucknow shared the case with UP ATS in January 2020. Activities of Vikas was monitored and analysed by a joint team of MI Lucknow and UP ATS. The operation was code-named ‘Desert Chase’.
Based on these it was learnt that Vikas is acquiring photos of a “water distribution register” at a water point/ pump house in MFFR through a contractual civil employee named Chiman Lal.
The development of the case was halted due to the start of the lockdown period all across the country. However, loss of critical information due the duo was continuing.
Finally, the case shared with Rajasthan Police Intelligence in the first week of May 2020.
A joint team was formed between Rajasthan Police Intelligence and MI Lucknow, and all the findings were analysed again. Further details were acquired and conclusive evidence was gathered.
Fresh payments were detected and so were passage of more information to Pakistan. Plans for apprehensions were made and finally, both were arrested by Rajasthan Police on June 8, at Jaipur.
Later, during questioning at Jaipur, Vikas Kumar reportedly confessed that he had received a friend request from the PIO’s Facebook Profile, “Anoshka Chopra” in March/ April 2019 and had accepted.
They became very friendly, shared their WhatsApp numbers and started chatting and making audio/ video calls. The PIO used to use an Indian WhatsApp number and claim she is working with Canteen Store Department (CSD) headquarters at Mumbai.
Vikas Kumar joined several WhatsApp groups as she asked him to. She was in all these groups and there were many serving defence and civil defence employees in them.
Subsequently, she introduced Vikas Kumar to her ‘boss’, Amit Kumar Singh (pseudo name used by the handler) who was also using an Indian WhatsApp number. He at times claimed to be from CSD and at times form Military Engineer Service (MES). Once Vikas and the Pakistani handler, ‘Amit Kumar Singh’ started communicating, ‘Anoshka Chopra’ blocked him from her Facebook and WhatsApp.
The handler convinced Vikas to send him military information in exchange for money. Hence the sequence of tasking by the handler and reporting by Vikas Kumar started around the end of April 2019.
Most of the information Vikas Kumar had passed on to his handler was found to have been acquired himself and some through Chiman Lal. The latter used to regularly send photos of “water- distribution- register” kept at one of the Pump House of MFFR with details of Army No, Rank, Name, Unit, Total Strength & Quantity of water drawn on almost daily basis.
The last communication between Vikas and his handler was as recently as yesterday (07 June 2020).
Vikas confessed to having received at least Rs 75,000 from his Pakistani handler (in smaller lots) for the information he has shared during this entire period. He used to receive them mostly on bank accounts of his and his brother, Hemant Kumar. The latter was found to have no links to the espionage case otherwise.