The NIA on Wednesday arrested two people from Bihar and Rajasthan in connection with the case where some components, including a hard disk, of the aircraft carrier were stolen in September last year.
The indigenous aircraft carrier being built in the Cochin Shipyard is one of the most ambitious projects of Indian defence. The theft sent alarm bells ringing in the Indian intelligence and defence establishment as it was suspected that it could have been a sabotage activity engineered by a foreign power.
The two accused — identified as Sumit Kumar Singh (23) from Munger in Bihar, and Daya Ram (22) from Hanumangarh in Rajasthan — however, have not yet been found to be working at the behest of any foreign country, sources said. In fact, during searches at their homes, the NIA recovered all components barring a hard disk which they sold on OLX for Rs 5,000, sources said.
“Given the seriousness of the case, a lot of effort was put in. When we started the probe we found the project to be enormous with more than 150 contractors who had 5,000 workers under them. We had picked some palm prints from the scene of the crime. These were at places where a normal worker would not reach unless he wanted to steal a component. We then matched these prints with each worker. Many had gone to their native places and so we had to send teams to multiple states. Hundreds were interrogated,” a senior NIA officer said.
According to the NIA, the case was first registered by the police on the complaint of Cochin Shipyard “regarding the criminal trespass and theft of certain critical electronic component installed on-board Indigenous Aircraft Carrier” in September.
The electronic components stolen included 5 micro-processors, 10 RAMs, 5 Solid State Drives (SSDs) from the Multi-Functional Consoles (MFCs) aboard the ship. MFCs form part of Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS) of the project.
Since sabotage was suspected, the case was handed over to the NIA.
“NIA conducted a painstaking and a very detailed investigation into this completely blind case collecting and analyzing fingerprints and palm-prints of more than five thousand persons, who had worked in the IAC project during the relevant period. A large number of witnesses were examined. In the month of March 2020, NIA had announced a reward of Rs five lakhs to anybody who gives any credible leads in the case,” NIA said in a statement.
During multiple searches in Bihar, Rajasthan and Gujarat, where some of the components had been hidden, the NIA recovered most of the stolen electronic devices, the agency claimed.