THE Delhi Police claimed on Saturday that Rajeev Sharma, a 61-year-old strategic affairs analyst and author whose arrest was announced by the Special Cell a day earlier, had passed on information such as deployment of Indian troops on the border to Chinese intelligence officers.
It also said it had arrested two more in connection with the Official Secrets Act (OSA) case, a 30- year-old Chinese woman and her “Nepalese accomplice”, for allegedly “supplying him (Sharma) huge amounts of money routed through hawalachannels for conveying sensitive information to Chinese intelligence”.
The police claimed shell companies had been set up overseas to route money to Sharma. At a press conference, DCP (Special Cell) Sanjeev Kumar Yadav said a case had been filed under the OSA on September 13, and Sharma was arrested the next day.
“During the search of Sharma’s house, one laptop, some confidential documents related to the defence department and other incriminating documents were recovered.” Qing Shi, the Chinese national arrested, ran the India wing of a Chinese company that was allegedly among Sharma’s “handlers”.
While the police warded off all queries on the nature of the documents allegedly shared by Sharma, an officer told The Sunday Express, “We have recovered PDFs and other documents with maps and information on Army deployments on the India-China border from Sharma’s email. Sharma also had secret information about the India-Myanmar border situation. We are checking all the mails and documents to get their source.”
Advocate Dr Adish Aggarwala, who is representing Sharma, questioned the charges against Sharma. “He is a reputed journalist… Any journalist can be hired by foreign news agencies. He was writing for Global Times… It’s an accredited news agency,” Aggarwala said.
Adding that Sharma had been held on September 14 night while on the road, driving, Aggarwala said, “The police personnel then went to his house with him, around 20 of them, and searched the premises till 3 am. As per Sharma’s wife, they didn’t find any sensitive material. She said he was not engaged in any such activities and did not procure any classified documents.”
At the press conference, DCP Yadav said, “During 2010-2014, Sharma wrote a weekly column for Global Times, widely known as a mouthpiece of the Chinese government. Observing those columns, one Chinese intelligence agent named Michael from Kunming city of China contacted Sharma through his LinkedIn account and invited him to Kunming for an interview with a Chinese media company.”
Yadav said that during questioning, Sharma admitted that “Michael and his junior Xou asked him to provide inputs on various aspects of India-China relations. Between 2016 and 2018, Sharma was in contact with the two and he was tasked with providing information on issues such as Indian deployment on the Bhutan-Sikkim-China tri-junction, including Doklam, the pattern of India-Myanmar military cooperation, and the India-China boundary issue. He had meetings with Michael and Xou in Laos and Maldives.”
In January 2019, according to the police, Sharma came in contact with another Kunming-based person called George, who “introduced himself as a general manager of a Chinese media company”. “Sharma visited Kunming via Kathmandu and met George… During the meeting, George asked Sharma to write about Dalai Lama-related issues, for which he was offered USD 500 per article or information… He was told that they will send him money through the company’s sister concern, based in Delhi’s Mahipalpur,” the police said.
This sister concern, the police said, was being operated by Qing Shi. Qing did her M.Sc from Jamia Hamdard Nursing College from 2013-15, said a source at the college. The Nepalese resident who has been arrested was identified as Sher Singh.
The Delhi Police said, “Two Chinese nationals — Jhang Chang and his wife Chang-li-lia — were running companies MZ Pharmacy and MZ Malls under fake names Suraj and Usha. They are both currently in China and, on their behalf, Qing and Sher Singh, both directors of MZ Pharmacy, operated the business.”
DCP Yadav said, “From January 2019 to September 2020, Sharma received more than Rs 30 lakh from George in about 10 instalments. Sharma had meetings with George in Malaysia and Kunming.”
The police said Sharma had told them he was “about to send the recovered secret documents to his handlers”. “In the past, too, he had sent several documents… and got handsome remuneration for the same.”
The police claimed to have been tipped off by an intelligence agency a few days ago about Sharma and how he was “receiving funds from his handler through illegal means and Western Union money transfers for conveying sensitive information regarding national security and foreign relations”.
Employed with United News of India, The Tribune, and Sakaal Times earlier, Sharma recently wrote a piece for Global Times titled ‘A rapprochement road map for Beijing and New Delhi benefits both countries’. He runs a YouTube channel with more than 11,000 followers and claims to have authored seven books.
The Press Club of India (PCI) released a statement criticising the arrest of Sharma, who is a PCI member. Calling him “a well-known independent journalist”, it said, “Sharma’s six-day police remand… evidently for relaying defence-related information to China, appears mind-boggling. He wrote on strategic affairs and may well have accessed routinely over-classified information on the Internet that is in the public domain… On the basis of the statement of the police… we have no hesitation in saying that the police action is high-handed, and may be inspired by obscure or questionable considerations.”
Mentioning action against journalists in the past, such as Iftikar Gilani on “trumped up” charges, as well as against Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid, and the recent arrests over the Delhi riots, the PCI called into question “the dubious track record of the Special Branch” of the Delhi Police.
Sharma’s home in Pitampura remained locked on Saturday.
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