Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) reportedly created a fake social media account of a woman to trick an employee of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) into sharing pictures and vital information on Sukhoi jets, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) said on Sunday.
Deepak Shirsat, an assistant supervisor at HAL, was arrested by ATS in October on charges of espionage. Officials stated that Shirsat started sharing information from January 2019.
The 41-year-old assistant supervisor has been working with the HAL for the last 16 years, ATS sources said.
An ISI operative created a fake social media account of a woman from the UK with an interest in aeronautics, who then lured Shirsat into sharing pictures of his notes and HAL’s manufacturing unit at Ozar. In order to sound genuine, the ISI operative would chat with him on a number with the phone code +44, the ATS added.
During their conversation, the woman allegedly told Shirsat she always wanted to do something in aeronautics but could not.
She then asked him to send critical information and pictures which were shared on WhatsApp and other social media apps, it said further. The accused had reportedly been in touch with the woman since December 2018.
After the ATS learnt that a HAL employee was supplying secret information about Indian fighter aircraft and its Nashik manufacturing unit to a foreigner, they began tracing the location of the number, which was diverted to Pakistan.
Its sources then confirmed that the number belonged to the ISI.
The ATS then laid a trap and nabbed the accused from Ozar, seizing three mobile handsets, five sim cards and two memory cards that were sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory.
An officer said a technical analysis will reveal what information he provided to the ISI and whether he was lured from other accounts as well.
An investigator said it was initially believed that Shirsat was blackmailed into sharing the information but during the investigation, it was revealed that the accused was willingly sharing critical details to impress the woman.
He has been booked under sections 3 (spying), 4 (communications with foreign agents to be evidence of the commission of certain offences) and 5 (wrongful communication, etc., of information) of the Official Secrets Act 1923.