The Delhi Police on Saturday said arrested freelance journalist Rajeev Sharma was passing sensitive information about India's border strategy and Army deployment to Chinese intelligence. At a press conference, Special Cell DCP Sanjeev Kumar Yadav said Sharma was writing on defence-related issues for some Indian media organisations, as well as China's Global Times.
Sharma had been arrested along with a Chinese national and a Nepalese national under the stringent Officials Secret Act (OSA), by the Special Cell of Delhi Police.
A Chinese woman identified as Qing Shi, and her Nepalese associate Sher Singh alias Raj Bhora, had been paying Sharma a hefty amount for sensitive information. Delhi Police had received a secret input about Sharma providing confidential documents to Chinese intelligence. During the search of his house a laptop, some confidential documents relating to the Indian Defence Department, among other incriminating documents were recovered and seized.
The money was being supplied to Sharma through a 'hawala' channel. Police said the accused had links with a 'foreign intelligence officer' and had been receiving funds via Western Union Money transfers and other illegal means in exchange of sensitive information concerning the country's national security and foreign relations.
Sharma disclosed during interrogation his involvement in procuring sensitive information and passing it on to Chinese handlers called Michael and George through various digital channels. The two handlers are based in Kunming City in China, he said.
He said he had been about to send the sensitive documents police recovered, to his handlers, as well. He had previously sent several documents in the form of reports in exchange of handsome remuneration, police said.
According to Police, Sharma wrote a weekly column for Global Times from 2010 to 2014, widely known to be a "mouthpiece of the China government".
These columns caught Michael's eye and he contacted Sharma through LinkedIn, and invited him to Kunming for an interview in a Chinese Media Company, said Yadav. The entire trip was funded by Michael.
“During the meeting, Michael and his junior Xou asked Rajeev Sharma to provide inputs on various aspects of India-China relations. Sharma was in contact with Michael and Xou from 2016 to 2018," Yadav said.
Sharma was tasked with providing information on issues like the Indian deployment on the Bhutan-Sikkim-China tri-junction including Doklam; the pattern of India-Myanmar military co-operation and the India-China boundary issue. Subsequently, Sharma held meetings with Michael and Xou in Laos and Maldives and gave briefings, as well. He was also in contact with his handlers through e-mail and social media.
Sharma came in contact with George in January 2019. Later, he visited Kunming via Kathmandu and met George, who was introduced to Sharma as a General Manager of a Chinese Media Company.
“During the meeting, George asked Sharma to write and inform him about issues related to Dalai Lama. He was offered $500 per article/piece of information," said Yadav.
George told Sharma that they would send him money through his company’s sister firm based in Mahipal Pur, Delhi, which was being operated by a Chinese woman called Qing. Sharma received more than Rs 30 lakh from George in about 10 instalments between January 2019 to September 2020 for his information. He also held meetings with George in Malaysia and again in Kunming.
Yadav said it was revealed during investigation that shell companies were being operated by foreign intelligence to transfer funds to Sharma. Chinese nationals Jhang Chang and his wife Chang-li-lia were running the companies MZ Pharmacy and MZ Malls, under fake names Suraj and Usha, he said. He added that both were presently in China and on their behalf, another Qing Shi and Bhora, directors of MZ Pharmacy, were operating the business from Mahipal Pur.
Forensic analysis of the seized mobile phones and laptops is being conducted to unearth the entire network and conspiracy. The identities and roles of other foreign nationals involved are also being investigated.