In a counter-espionage operation, the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has apprehended a retired Indian Army soldier, based on input provided by a Lucknow-based Military Intelligence (MI) Unit. As per the information, Saurabh Sharma, an ex-serviceman, was working for a Pakistani intelligence agency since 2016.

The UP ATS took almost a month to track down and arrest the retired army man. UP ATS and the military intelligence (MI) unit tracked down retired Signalman Saurabh Sharma from his parental house, located in the Bihuni in Uttar Pradesh's Hapur district.

The military intelligence had earlier received a tip about the involvement of the retired army signalman in espionage activities. After receiving the tip, the “Operation Cross-Connection” was initiated to trace the retired army personnel and arrest Saurabh Sharma.

Details of the operation were shared with UP ATS at the beginning of December 2020 and a joint investigation was started soon after.

Sharma has accepted involvement with the Pakistan intelligence agency and revealed that he came in touch with a Pakistan Intelligence Operating (PIO) in 2014 on Facebook. He claimed the PIO initially introduced himself as a defence journalist. Sharma admitted that he started sharing sensitive military information by 2016 in return for money.

The retired soldier said he shared information in the form of text, audio and photo messages; additional information was also passed to the PIO through WhatsApp calls. It has been reported that Sharma had received several payments from his handlers.

The soldier was discharged from the Indian Army in June 2020 due to medical reasons. However, traces of his activities have been identified through his mobile phone.

An FIR has been lodged at Gomti Nagar Police Station in Lucknow against the accused under Sections 120B and 123 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Sections 3, 4, 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and Section 13 of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

He is due to be procured in court and it is anticipated that UP ATS will ask for police custody of the accused to further investigate the matter. The Lucknow MI, UP ATS and central intelligence agencies are jointly searching for further leads in the case.