A Russian national was detained at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport in Delhi Monday and is currently being questioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with its probe into the irregularities in the Joint Entrance Examination (Mains) exams conducted in 2021, said officials.
The accused has been identified as Mikhail Shargin who is suspected to have tampered with the software that is used to conduct the exams.
“The accused was detained by the Bureau of Immigration at IGI Airport, Delhi while he arrived from Almaty, Kazakhstan. A lookout circular was opened against him,” a CBI spokesperson said.
According to the CBI, it came to light during the investigation that some foreign nationals were involved in compromising many online examinations, including JEE (Mains), by colluding with the other accused in the case.
The JEE (Mains) is held for admission to undergraduate engineering programmes (B.E/B.Tech) at NITs, IIITs, other Centrally- Funded Technical Institutions (CFTIs), and certain institutions or universities recognised by some state governments.
“The role of one Russian national who had allegedly tampered with the iLeon software (the platform on which the JEE (Main)-2021 examination was conducted) was revealed. He helped other accused in hacking the computer systems of suspect candidates during the examination. Therefore, a lookout circular was opened against the Russian national,” the spokesperson said.
In September last year, the CBI had conducted searches at 19 locations across Delhi NCR, Pune, Jamshedpur, Indore, and Bangalore apart from arresting 11 people. As many as 25 laptops, 7 PCs, around 30 post-dated cheques along with voluminous incriminating documents/devices including PDC’s marksheet of different students were seized during the time.
Sources said the racket was being run by a Noida-based company—Affinity Education Pvt Ltd—in connivance with those managing online examination centres in Haryana and elsewhere.
Those candidates who had paid money to the company will get the answers solved by ‘solvers’ remotely arranged by an associate in Jharkhand. The candidates themselves would merely pretend to be appearing in the exam, sources said.
“While the initial information was about an examination centre at Sonepat in Haryana, we have now learnt there are more such centres around Sonepat which had been compromised by the accused. Candidates from as far as Maharashtra had come to appear for the exams at Sonepat. We are also probing if they have done this last year and already got some students admitted to premier engineering institutes. It is likely there are more such institutes. The probe is on in this matter,” a CBI officer said.
Top rankers in JEE (Mains) get a chance to appear for JEE (Advance) which is an examination for admission into IITs. Since, 2020 the exams are being held online in four sessions and multiple shifts every year.
According to the First Information Report (FIR) registered by the CBI, Affinity Education was registered with the Registrar of Companies in 2019 with Vishvambhar Mani Tripathi, Siddharth Krishna and Govind Varshney as its directors. The company also has an office in Pune.
Krishna and Tripathy were arrested by the CBI in September along with other employees of the company who have been identified as Ritik Singh, Anjum Dawoodani, Animesh Singh and Ajinkya Patil. Ranjit Singh Thakur from Jharkhand, who arranged for solvers, has also been arrested.
CBI investigations have found that the accused scouted for students willing to appear for the exams fraudulently against a payment of Rs 12-15 lakh. The accused allegedly took post-dated cheques from the candidates and kept their original Class X and Class XII marksheets as security. The idea, sources said, was to encash the cheques after the candidates secured a place in the merit list.
The accused also “collected the User ID and Password of the candidates appearing for the examination and made necessary modification for getting desired examination centres as planned by them. The counselors also collect a copy of the downloaded admit card of the candidates in advance before the examination,” the CBI has said in its FIR.
One of the accused’s associate—Ranjeet Singh Thakur from Adityapur in Jharkhand — arranged for solvers for these candidates.
According to the CBI, this person would arrange “a solver sitting at a remote location for solving the questions which are displayed on the computer terminal allotted to the candidate at the examination centre in connivance with the centre authorities. The centre supervisor who has access to the computer network is also a part of the fraudulent act and the solver gets access to the system being used by the candidate by using remote access software. The candidates are directed to pretend that they are operating the computer by keeping their hand on a mouse and making calculations on a sheet so that nothing adverse is recorded in the camera installed at the centre whereas the questions are solved by solvers.”