NIA arrests key conspirator in Visakhapatnam espionage case

New Delhi, May 15 (PTI) The National Investigation Agency on Friday arrested key conspirator of the infamous Visakhapatnam espionage case, which involved 11 Naval personnel allegedly leaking sensitive information to Pakistan's external snooping agency ISI.

The NIA arrested Mohammed Haroon Haji Abdul Rehman Lakdawala, a resident of Mumbai. During the probe, he had turned out to be one of the 'key conspirators' in the case that was taken over by the agency in December last year, an official spokesman said.

On December 20, Indian intelligence agencies busted the espionage racket linked to Pakistan.

Lakdawala was produced before a local court in Mumbai for seeking a transit remand and he would be produced before a court in Vijaywada on Saturday, the NIA said.

With the arrest of Lakdawala, a total of 14 accused have so far been arrested, including 11 Navy personnel, Pakistani-born Indian national Shaista Qaiser and her associate.

'Investigation revealed that Lakdawala had visited Karachi (Pakistan) on many occasions to meet his handlers under the guise of conducting cross-border trade. During these visits, he came in contact with two Pakistani spies, namely Akbar alias Ali and Rizwan, who directed him to deposit money into the bank accounts of Navy personnel at regular intervals. The same was done through different means,' the official said.

During searches at the house of Lakdawala, a number of digital devices and incriminating documents were seized by the NIA, he said, adding further investigation in the case was underway.

'The NIA has arrested the key conspirator in the Visakhapatnam espionage case related to an international espionage racket involving individuals based in Pakistan and at different locations in India,' the official said.

Pakistan-based spies recruited agents in India for collecting sensitive and classified information regarding locations and movements of Indian naval ships and submarines, and other defence establishments.

'Investigation revealed that a few Navy personnel came in contact with Pakistani nationals through various social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp and were involved in sharing classified information in lieu of monetary gains. The money was deposited into the bank accounts of the Navy personnel through Indian associates having business interests in Pakistan,' he said. PTI SKL AAR