The 41-year-old assistant supervisor at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) last month on charges of espionage, was lured by a woman, posing as a UK-based model with an interest in aeronautics, into sharing pictures and vital information on Sukhoi jets.
The ATS said Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) created a fake social media account of a woman, who then lured him into sharing pictures of his notes and HAL’s manufacturing unit at Ozar. The ATS on October 9 had arrested Deepak Shirsat. He has been working with the HAL for the last 16 years, ATS sources said.
The sources revealed that a fake account was created by the ISI. An operative lured him by posing as a model from the UK. In order to sound genuine, the ISI operative would chat with him on a number with phone code +44, the sources added. “During their conversation, the woman allegedly told him she always wanted to do something related to aeronautics but couldn’t.
She then asked him to send critical information and pictures,” said an officer, adding that these pictures were shared on WhatsApp and other social media apps. The accused, who had been in touch with the woman since December 2018, started sharing information with her from January 2019, ATS sources said.
After the ATS learnt that a person employed at the HAL was supplying secret information about Indian fighter aircraft and its Nashik manufacturing unit to a foreigner, they started tracing the location of the number on which the information was shared, when they learnt that the number was diverted to Pakistan. “Through our sources we learnt that the information was going to the ISI,” an investigator said.
The ATS then laid a trap and nabbed the accused from Ozar, said an officer. After his arrest, three mobile handsets, five sim cards and two memory cards were seized and sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory.
“A technical analysis will reveal what information he provided to the ISI and whether he was lured from other accounts as well,” an officer said.
“We initially believed Shirsat was blackmailed into sharing information but during investigation, we learnt that the accused who wanted to meet the woman was willingly sharing information to impress her,” an investigator said.
The accused has been booked under sections 3 (spying), 4 (communications with foreign agents to be evidence of commission of certain offences) and 5 (wrongful communication, etc., of information) of the Official Secrets Act 1923.
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