The Interim Test Range (ITR), Chandipur espionage case is getting curiouser by the day. Based on the information extracted from the five accused arrested in the case during their interrogation during their seven-day police remand, the Crime Branch has decided to seek the help of Interpol to trace and ascertain the details of the UK number used by a woman, believed to be an ISI operative, to trap five employees of the missile test range of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) at Chandipur and extract sensitive defence information from them.
“We have already obtained the picture of the woman operative from the seized mobile phone of one of the accused persons. As per established protocol, we shall move central agencies to seek the help of Interpol to find out more about the woman, who was in regular touch with the arrested five through WhatsApp and Facebook. The probe can proceed further once the location of the phone is ascertained,” Crime Branch additional director general (ADG) Sanjeev Panda said. “We may seek a fresh remand for the accused, if required,” he added.
Sources in the Crime Branch said the woman had been in constant touch with the five arrested staff of ITR since February last year. Though it is still unclear what exact information the woman managed to obtain, it is suspected that the accused persons have passed on photos and data related to missile tests and other sensitive activities at ITR during their interaction with the woman in the period since then. The probe agency has also found proof of one of the accused persons receiving an amount of Rs 38, 000 from an account in Dubai. Investigation is on to ascertain if the others too received money from the woman, the sources said.
One revelation that has caused serious concern is that the mystery woman kept tabs on the movement of the ITR Director by hacking into the phone of Sachin Kumar Chhatta, the driver of the Director and the only full-time employee among the five arrested.
Apart from the Crime Branch, sleuths of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and National Investigating Agency (NIA) have also interrogated the accused persons during their remand to ascertain whether the woman was a direct recruit or hired by an agent and what she did with the information obtained from the arrested five.
Based on a lead provided by the Army intelligence agency, four contractual employees of the ITR – Basanta Behera, Hemanta Mistry, Tapas Ranjan Nayak and Sheikh Musafir - were arrested by Balasore police on September 14. Information obtained during their interrogation subsequently led to the arrest of Sachin Kumar.