Probing a spy ring that has led it to the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi, the Crime Branch of Delhi Police has arrested the personal assistant of Samajwadi Party Rajya Sabha MP Munavvar Saleem for allegedly passing on classified documents, including those related to defence and shipping, to Pakistan mission staffers.
Police said Farhat, the personal assistant, played an “integral role” in espionage and provided documents to mission staffers including Mehmood Akhtar who was declared persona non grata and ordered out of the country by the Ministry of External Affairs. Akhtar was allegedly caught receiving classified papers on October 26.
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Produced in a Delhi court Saturday, Farhat has been sent to police custody for ten days. Rajya Sabha MP Munavvar Saleem told reporters in Vidisha that he was not aware of the activities of his personal assistant who he had hired eleven months ago. He said he would extend all cooperation to investigation agencies. He said Farhat had worked for other MPs before him. He said he would write to the Rajya Sabha secretariat to take away all facilities extended to Farhat.
In Lucknow, Samajwadi Party spokesperson Deepak Mishra said Munavvar Saleem belongs to Madhya Pradesh and his personal assistant has no association with the party. Mishra said the party will speak to Saleem and ask him to clear facts. Mishra said the SP is against anti-national activities and no party member can be involved in such acts.
Farhat’s arrest is the fourth in the case. Earlier, police had arrested Maulana Ramzan and Subhash Jangir, residents of Nagaur in Rajasthan, for passing documents to Akhtar. A third accused, Shoaib, was detained in Jodhpur and brought to Delhi where he was placed under arrest.
Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Ravindra Singh Yadav said, “We have arrested Farhat and are going to interrogate him. He had been involved (in espionage) for many years. We believe he played an integral role.”
Sources said Farhat was picked from Munavvar Saleem’s house after Akhtar named him during questioning. “Farhat told police he had been associated with political leaders since 1996 and had worked for four MPs, including the late Munawwar Hasan, MP from Muzaffarnagar who died in a road accident in 2008,” police sources said.
Questioned before being turned over to the Pakistan High Commission, Akhtar claimed that Farhat had been in touch with him for the last one-and-half years, and that he was told about Farhat by his former colleagues at the mission.
“Farhat disclosed he had given documents related to the ministries of external affairs, defence and shipping to Akhtar. He used to get sums ranging between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2 lakh in return for every document. He had even passed on Parliament questionnaires. He was in constant touch with staffers of the Pakistan High Commission,” police sources said.
Farhat initially tried to mislead investigators, sources said, but confessed after he was confronted with technical evidence, including phone call detail records which showed him in conversation with staffers of the Pakistan mission.
“In 1998, while working as PA of one of the MPs, he came in contact with Pakistan High Commission staffers when he went to the mission for visa-related work. The staffers there lured him in the name of religion and money and he started helping them. He even provided them annual reports of the ministries of science and technology, water resources and civil aviation,” police sources said.