The Punjab-based Indian Air Force (IAF) official, who was arrested for allegedly spying for Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, during interrogation told the Delhi Police that he was working as "defence analyst" for a British journalist suspected to be an ISI agent.
Ranjith KK, the leading aircraft man with IAF posted in Bhatinda, Punjab, was arrested from an airbase on Monday by the Delhi Police's Crime Branch. Prior to his arrest, he was dismissed when the Air Force Liaisoning Unit (LU) and Military Intelligence were informed about his suspected ISI links.
"Ranjith was detained by the IAF and handed over to us. We arrested him on Monday and brought him to Delhi on transit remand," IANS quoted Joint Commissioner Ravindra Yadav as saying.
A magistrate court in Delhi remanded Ranjith, a native of Malappuram district in Kerala, to four-day police custody after the Delhi Police told the court that they need to take him to Jaisalmer and Gwalior for further interrogation, PTI reported.
Ranjith shared information with British journalist in exchange for money
The IAF official came in contact with British journalist Damini McNaught over a year ago through Facebook. He told police that he started talking to her over chat and later through VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).
"Ranjith was fooled by a cyber entity in the name of Damini McNaught who pretended to work as an executive with a British magazine that wanted some Indian Air Force information for its next issue," IANS quoted its source as saying.
"Ranjith had shared information on some recent IAF exercises, movement of aircraft and deployment of various air force units with the woman, who spoke with a British accent during a VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) call that was intercepted by us."
The Delhi Police said Ranjith shared information about deployment and movement of Air Force officers at the base station in Punjab, Jaisalmer and Gwalior. McNaught also asked Ranjith to send mappings of specific locations, such as buildings with clear view of the entire Air Force base and important installations, besides exact locations of the air traffic control, air base and parking space of the fighter planes, Hindustan Times reported.
"McNaught used to give Ranjith only specific queries. He was not asked to leak any documents or plans but was asked specific information. As a 'defence analyst' he was asked to mark entry exit points of the air base, distance of the base from high rises, recent air force exercise, movements of aircrafts and deployment of various units . For the said information he got paid Rs 30,000 to Rs 35,000," HT quoted its sources as saying.
Ranjith told the police that he was unaware that he was spying all this while. "During his interrogation, he has revealed he was clueless about those behind the telephonic voice that beguiled him to the extent that Ranjith found out and shared every bit of information sought from him," The Hindu quoted a police source as saying.
ISI running honey trap module?
The Delhi Police said they have come across a "honey trapping module" that the ISI is using to trap defence officials and coaxing them into sharing sensitive information.
"With his arrest, the police have come across a honeytrapping module, backed by intelligence agents from across the border, which creates fictitious accounts (cyber entities) in popular social networking sites, pretending to be women, befriend defence personnel and officials from security forces and allegedly lure them into espionage," PTI quoted a senior police officer as saying.
"These Pakistani agents select profiles of these defence personnel from Facebook and then send them friends request to start a conversation. Since Ranjith had received a few VOIP based calls on his mobile number from the woman talking in a British accent, it is clear that the agencies have even hired women whom they use to honeytrap these defence personnel in order to get sensitive information out of them," HT quoted police as saying.
Meanwhile, the police have started an investigation into the Facebook profile of McNaught.
"We have accessed her profile and are analysing the logs to see who all she was speaking to using the said profile. More arrests are likely," police sources said.