The Ahmedabad Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) Tuesday arrested a 72-year-old Ahmedabad resident for allegedly facilitating authentication of Indian SIM cards for Pakistani intelligence agents, with the latter allegedly using WhatsApp through these authenticated SIMs to gather “extremely security-sensitive and highly confidential” information about the Indian security forces.
An was FIR lodged Tuesday at the DCB police station has charged the accused, Abdul Wahab Shermohammad Pathan, and an alleged Pakistani intelligence agency operative Shafaqat Jatoi.
The module was busted based on military intelligence after some government websites meant for ex-servicemen were found to be cloned.
Assistant Commissioner of Police, Crime, Prem Vir Singh, told a press conference Tuesday that Pathan who lives in Kalupur are of Ahmedabad, has extended family in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan although he moved to India prior to Independence.
“It is to visit these family members that he travelled to Pakistan three or four times in the past and for the visa, he had visited the Pakistan High Commission office in New Delhi, which is how he came in touch with his Pakistani handlers,” said Singh.
According to the DCB, clone websites have been created of Indian government websites to collect information about retired or soon-to-retire officers of armed forces.
Pathan allegedly obtaining nearly 10 SIM cards from one Abdul Razak Tetra from Dani Limda area of Ahmedabad, and others known to Pathan, where these persons handed over their SIM to Pathan, the DCB said.
Pathan would then allegedly activate these SIM cards, provide the number of these SIM cards to one Pakistani intelligence officer Shafkat Jatoi, as well as send numbers of SIM cards of persons known to Pathan and who are using these numbers already.
These SIM cards would then be purportedly used to log in to WhatsApp by Jatoi.
The activated WhatsApp numbers would then be allegedly used by Pakistan-based intelligence agencies such as ISI operatives, who would call or message or send voice notes to Indian security officials — retired or soon-to-retire — to gather information about Indian security forces and its systems.
“The details of these ex-servicemen were got from their personal information provided on the clone websites,” said an official.
According to the official, one of the contact details found while investigating these websites was an Ahmedabad one, and thus the crime branch was tipped off.
“We suspect at least eight persons from Ahmedabad are involved, but after the police got after Pathan, they got alerted and might have formatted their phones to delete data”, said the official.
According to the police “Jatoi would activate the WhatsApp from the Indian SIM cards sent by Pathan who would send him the OTP for the activation”.
“This was done as it would reflect as an Indian number when such calls or messages would be made and would give the impression that the calls/messages are being made by an Indian,” said a DCB official.
Jatoi, said an official, was posted in the Pakistan high commission in Delhi between 2015 and 2019. Pathan allegedly received financial benefits ranging between Rs 5,000-10,000 per SIM card activated, said Singh.
The accused were booked under IPC sections 123 (concealing with intent to facilitate design to wage war), 120(B) (criminal conspiracy) and relevant sections of the Information Technology Act.