Arrested ex-IAF airman seduced by woman on Facebook: Key details about ISI espionage rackets

The arrested IAF personnel had been honey-trapped by a woman on Facebook. Here's all you need to know about the ISI espionage rackets.

FP Staff December 30, 2015 10:35:33 IST
Arrested ex-IAF airman seduced by woman on Facebook: Key details about ISI espionage rackets

The arrest of a dismissed member of Indian Air Force personnel, who allegedly shared secret documents with intelligence operatives backed by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has revealed a disturbing modus operandi reportedly being used by ISI to get its hands on sensitive information about the Indian armed forces.

Ranjith KK from Kerala, was arrested from Punjab at the Bathinda airbase on Monday as he was spying for ISI, the police had said.

An IAF official had also said that Ranjith, who was a leading aircraftman with the IAF, was dismissed on Monday evening (a few hours before his arrest) after evidence was found against him for sharing sensitive information with others.

Arrested exIAF airman seduced by woman on Facebook Key details about ISI espionage rackets

Ranjith KK. PTI

"It was a long-drawn case. After an internal administrative inquiry, we dismissed Ranjith at around 5.30 pm on Monday," the IAF official, on condition of anonymity, had told IANS.

However, what is even more disturbing is the fact that Ranjith might not have known initially that he was divulging confidential information to the ISI.

Honey-trapped by operative on Facebook

According to Hindustan Times, Ranjith was under the impression that he was a defence analyst for a leading UK magazine until as recently as last week.

Ranjith was befriended on Facebook by a woman called Damini McNaught after he posted a profile picture in uniform.

"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,” sources told IANS.

Another report in The Times of India said that the friendship between Ranjith and McNaught had even taken a sexual turn when their conversation online began including dirty talk which ran late into the night.

McNaught's Facebook profile showed her to be a resident of Beeston, Leeds, said the report, adding that Ranjith and McNaught soon "moved from text chats to audio and photo exchanges on Whatsapp."

“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,” sources told IANS.

The HT report also said that McNaught used to give Ranjith Google satellite maps of Bathinda and had asked him to mark important buildings, including high-rise buildings from where the entire Air Force base was visible. She had even asked him to point out the location of the air traffic control, air force base and parking space for fighter planes.

Ranjith also got money in return for the information he revealed. Sources told DNA that Rs 30,000 transferred to his bank account had tipped off the intelligence agencies. "The suspect offered to transfer money into a bank account under Ranjith's name. We are looking into recent transactions made towards that account," the report quoted a senior police official as saying.

Interrogators also said that Ranjith had told them that McNaught had a British accent.

According to IANS, ISI has been using social networking site Facebook as a 'honey trap' to gather secret and confidential information about the armed forces, police indicated without naming the agency.

Delhi Police officers, who busted a pan-India ISI-backed espionage racket earlier this month, said that some fictitious Facebook accounts, purportedly belonging to women, are being used to identify and lure defence personnel.

They first befriend these defence personnel after drawing their attention with attractive profile photos and start getting familiar over chats. Slowly they encourage the targeted personnel to divulge matters considered secret that can be misused by the enemy.

“A few serving defence personnel are being pulled into the espionage network through these honey traps. Some fictitious Facebook accounts of women are being used for this,” Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Ravindra Yadav confirmed to IANS.

Delhi Police sleuths dug out this information during the questioning of 44-year-old library assistant, Kafaitullah Khan alias Master Raja, who was arrested in the capital on 26 November on charges of spying for ISI, official sources said.

The earlier arrests linked with ISI espionage racket

Khan was not the only person arrested on 26 November. Border Security Force (BSF) head constable Abdul Rasheed was also arrested along with Khan for obtaining secret information related to India's national security and sharing it with ISI.

Arrested exIAF airman seduced by woman on Facebook Key details about ISI espionage rackets

Kafaitullah Khan alias Master Raja. YouTube screengrab.

While Rasheed was posted with the BSF intelligence wing in the same district, Khan was a resident of Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir.

"Khan is a handler of Pakistani intelligence operatives, and Rasheed was one of his chief sources. They were running an espionage racket which was supported by Pakistan's ISI," Ravindra Yadav had said a few days after Khan's arrest.

Yadav said the operation was conducted following tip-offs about ongoing anti-national activities sponsored by ISI, which is suspected to have a network of civilian handlers and security personnel in various parts of the country.

Khan was selected for the BSF in 1992, but he did not join the service. He was selected by the Jammu and Kashmir Police in 1993, but quit after getting a library assistant's job in 1995.

"Khan had visited Pakistan in 2013 where he came in contact with an ISI agent and in lieu of monetary benefit, he agreed to provide secret information about the defence forces.

"He later cultivated his sources in the army and the BSF and they started passing on information to Pakistani intelligence operatives. The information was passed through email, WhatsApp and Viber," Yadav had said.

Yadav had also said that Khan was given specific tasks by ISI, mainly relating to the deployment of security forces and Indian Air Force operations.

Among Khan's other agents were Irshad Ansari, Asfaq Ansari and Mohammad Jahangir, who were arrested from Ekbalpore in Kolkata, and charged with attempts to wage war against the state and criminal conspiracy.

However, the police haven't yet been able to ascertain any specific link between Ranjith and this racket.

With inputs from agencies

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