By QUAID NAJMI
Nashik/Mumbai, Oct 9 (IANS) In a major swoop, the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (Nashik unit) has arrested an employee of the high-security Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) on alleged charges of spying for a foreign countrys intelligence agency, top officials said here on Friday.
The HAL staffer – who has been identified as Deepak Shirsat (41) – has been accused of supplying confidential and sensitive information about Indian fighter aircraft and the manufacturing facilities in Nashik, said Additional DGP (ATS) Deven Bharti.
Following a tip-off on his suspicious activities, including meeting a foreign national, Shirsat, working as a quality control inspector with the critical aircraft manufacturing division in Nashik, came under the radar of multiple agencies, including the Nashik Police, the state ATS, and the Military Intelligence for the past several days and was finally detained around three days ago, said officials.
Sustained interrogation of the suspect revealed that he was in regular contact with some members of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to whom he was passing on secret and sensitive details about the HAL manufacturing unit at Ozar, the Indian Air Force airbase in Nashik, and the other prohibited areas within the unit, after which he was arrested.
Among other things, the sleuths learnt that the accused was allegedly passing on documents, photographs, and maps with longitude-latitude markings of the defence-related facilities here, via WhatsApp and other modes of communication.
“An offence under Sections 3, 4 and 5 of the Official Secrets Act, 1923 has been registered against the accused. We have seized three mobile handsets with five SIM cards and two memory cards which have been sent for forensic examination,” Bharti said.
The accused was produced before a special ATS court in Nashik which has remanded him to 10 days’ police custody, said ATS DIG Jayant Naiknavre.
Further investigation into the entire racket to unearth the possibility of others’ involvement is presently underway.
“As the investigation is on, we have no comments to offer,” said HAL spokesperson Gopal Sutar.
Shirsat’s social media profile describes him as married, hailing from Jalgaon, an alumnus of Government Polytechnic Pune and Gangapur Madhyamik Vidyalaya, and working with HAL as a QC inspector, besides penning poems as a hobby.
Located around 200 km north of Mumbai, the HAL Aircraft Manufacturing Division is engaged in the production of different variants of the MiG and Sukhoi fighter aircraft.
The facility is the mainstay for Russian-origin aircraft in terms of life extension, modification, site repair and investigation. It also exports spares to Russia, Poland, Algeria, Malaysia, Vietnam, Syria and Egypt.