Nagpur/Lucknow: Hours after Nishant Pradeep Agarwal, a young scientist working with the BrahMos Aerospace Pvt Ltd (BAPL), was arrested on spying charges, it has now come to light that more scientists at the missile research centre in Nagpur were lured by Pakistan's spy agency (ISI) for extracting crucial information.
Agarwal, who has been working for the last four years in the BAPL - an Indo-Russian Joint Venture - was nabbed in a joint operation by Uttar Pradesh Police and the Maharashtra Police from Nagpur on Monday evening.
The young BAPL scientist was arrested on charges of spying for Pakistan`s notorious intelligence agency (ISI) and other countries, according to sources. Agarwal was reportedly passing on certain highly classified information, including "technological and other details", to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan as well as the USA.
The UP-Anti Terrorist Squad (UP-ATS), which arrested Agarwal, also detained two unidentified officials following raids in Agra and Kanpur and seized their laptops.
The two officials have been interrogated by the UP-ATS in this connection.
The joint raids were conducted following specific intelligence tip-off after which Agrawal was placed under surveillance for the past few days by the Military Intelligence as well as Uttar Pradesh Police and Maharashtra Police.
The BAPL official has now been booked under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).
Based on the interrogation of the three accused, UP-ATS claimed that several fake Facebook accounts originating from Pakistan have been created in the name of women to "honey-trap" key officials working in sensitive Indian defence establishments.
The first-hand information in this regard was obtained after the Border Security Force nabbed a person in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, and subsequently, two fake Facebook IDs of women created in Pakistan were put under observation after they were found to be chatting with Agarwal.
After getting the search warrant from the court, the UP-ATS and Maharashtra Police kept on Agarwal`s residence at Ujjwal Nagar in Nagpur on surveillance.
During this period, the agencies found that Agarwal was keeping certain secret and ultra-sensitive information on his personal computer, which violated the provisions of the OSA.
This eventually led to his arrest on alleged spying charges.
The joint ATS teams of the two states also searched his BMAL office and from another location recovered an old laptop which is being examined to see if it contains anything objectionable.
The UP-ATS, which wants to take Agarwal to Lucknow for further investigations on transit remand, believes that several other officers of BAPL were also lured by the female ISI agents through fake Facebook accounts.
The probe agencies believe that ISI has created more than 1,000 fake Facebook profiles to lure scientists, engineers employed with vital defence establishments across the country.
The arrest and subsequent grilling of Agarwal and others is likely to blow the lid off the ISI espionage racket operating in the country in disguise.
Hailing from Roorkee in Uttarakhand, Agarwal had been recently awarded the "Young Scientist Award" for the year 2017-18. He had got married earlier this year and had been living in a rented house in Nagpur`s Ujjwala Nagar.
Among other things, the BrahMos centre is involved in manufacturing certain critical components for the BrahMos missile, considered the world`s fastest cruise missile that can be launched from land, ships, aircraft or submarines.
The Indo-Russian joint venture`s recent development of the latest version of the BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missile has elicited keen interest in global defence circles and several major political powers in the world.
The missile -- successfully test-fired on July 16 from the Integrated Test Range at Balasore in Odisha -- is an outcome of a joint venture of India`s Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russia`s NPO Mashinostroyenia Corp (NPOM), since 2011.
(With Agency inputs)