Rajasthan| On Monday (8 June) Rajasthan Police arrested two people on charges of espionage and selling sensitive data about defence establishments to Pakistan intelligence agency ISI. The arrested accused are identified as Vikas Tilotiya (29), a civil defence employee at an army ammunition depot near Shri Ganganagar, and Chimanlal Nayak (22), a civil contractual employee of the army’s Mahajan Field Firing Range (MFFR), Bikaner.
The operation named ‘Desert Chase’ holds great importance as the Shri Ganganagar Ammunition Depot and Bikaner MMFR are strategically important military installations on the country’s western front along the Pakistan border.
Lucknow based military intelligence unit began the operation in August 2019, when it’s sleuthhound learnt about an espionage agent near Sri Ganganagar, who was passing military information to his handlers in Pakistan. The agent was identified as Vikas Tilotiya-the civil defence employee at an army ammunition depot near Sri Ganganagar.
Vikas Tilotiya was honey-trapped on Facebook by a Pakistani intelligence operative (PIO) using a fraudulent Facebook profile in the guise of ‘Anoshka Chopra’ being run from Multan, Pakistan by a young Pakistani woman. Vikas Tilotiya was receiving payments in three of his and his brother Hemant Tilotiya’s bank account. The latter was also interrogated and was found to have no links to the espionage case otherwise.
MI Lucknow shared the case with Uttar Pradesh Anti Terrorist Squad (UP ATS) in January 2020. Since then Vikas Tilotiya’s activities were monitored by both MI Lucknow and UP ATS.
Based on the joint inputs of MI Lucknow and UP ATS, it was learnt that Vikas Tilotiya is obtaining photos of a ‘water distribution register’ at a water point/pump house in MFFR through a contractual civil employee named Chimanlal Nayak.
Though the development in the case was interrupted by the nationwide lockdown due to the pandemic.
The case was finally shared with Rajasthan Police Intelligence in May first week. A joint team was formed between Rajasthan Police Intelligence and MI Lucknow, and all the previous leads were reanalysed. Fresh leads were obtained and definitive evidence was gathered.
Fresh leads were found as new payments were detected along with a trail of sensitive data being passed on to Pakistan by the two accused. Plan for their arrest was made and finally, both the accused were arrested by Rajasthan Police on Monday (8 June) at Jaipur.
The last communication between Vikas Tilotiya was as recent as on Sunday (7 June) which is one day before the arrest.
During the interrogation, Vikas Tilotiya confessed that he received a friend request from PIO’s facebook profile ‘Anoshka Chopra’ in March/April 2019 and he accepted it. The two became friendly, shared their WhatsApp numbers, and began communicating and making audio/video calls. The PIO used an Indian WhatsApp number and claimed she is working with Canteen Store Department (CSD) headquarters at Mumbai.
Vikas Tiloitya joined various WhatsApp groups which the PIO asked him to. She was in all these groups along with various serving defence and civil defence employees as members of the WhatsApp group.
Later, the PIO introduced Vikas Tilotiya to her supervisor Amit Kumar Singh (a false name used by the Pakistani handler) who also used an Indian WhatsApp number. He sometimes claimed to be from CSD and sometimes from Military Engineer Service (MES).
Once Vikas Tilotiya and Amit Kumar Singh (Pakistani handler)began communicating, Anoshka Chopra (PIO) blocked him from her Facebook and WhatsApp accounts.
Around the end of April 2019; the Pakistani handler convinced Vikas Tilotiya to transfer him military data in exchange for money. Thereafter, the sequence of tasking by the Pakistani handler and reporting by Vikas Tilotiya continued.
Most of the information passed to the handler was either acquired by Vikas Tilotiya on his own or through Chimalal Nayak’s assistance.
Vikas Tilotiya also confessed to have received a sum of Rs. 70,000 in small lots by the Pakistani handler for the data he has shared during this entire period. Out of this sum, he paid approximately Rs. 9,000 to Chimanlal Nayak for his assistance in lots of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 2000 since their first meet.
Information that has been passed to the Pakistani Handler by the duo:
- ORBAT (Order of battle, composition, and order of a military fighting formation) of two local army brigades and all changes in them.
- Ammunition coming to Vikas Tilotiya’s ammunition depot including their photo, state, type, quantity, model, arrival, and departure.
- Army units and their strength coming for firing practice or military exercise to MFFR along with photos of arms, ammunition, tanks, and other military vehicles (with their tactical numbers) at MFFR.
- Name, rank, and personality traits of some Senior Military Officers in the nearby two army brigades, Vikas Tilotiya’s ammunition depot and others who visited the military station.
- Photos of ‘water-distribution-register’ kept at one of the pump houses of MFFR with details of army number, rank, name, unit, total strength, and quantity of water drawn on an almost daily basis by Chimanlal Nayak.
Intelligence Bureau has recovered some mobile phones and SIM cards. Both the accused will be produced in court soon. And further investigation in the case is still going on, said Umesh Mishra, Additional Director General of Rajasthan Police Intelligence.