NIA team arrives in Odisha to investigate DRDO espionage case

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A Day after the arrest of four contractual employees and a permanent staffer of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), a team of National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday arrived at Balasore to investigate the links of the accused persons with the Pakistani agents.

The two-member team of NIA, the counter terrorist task force of the country, is learnt to have been briefed by Balasore police about the incident that led to the arrest of the five persons. The team comprising IT and forensic experts are expected to visit the sensitive areas in the ITR and interrogate the accused after taking them on remand.

Police on Thursday arrested a driver Sachin Kumar Chatta in connection with the alleged espionage in the Integrated Test Range (ITR) off Odisha coast. A native of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, Chatta was a permanent staffer who worked as the driver of a top defence scientist for the last seven years and was living inside the ITR Colony where a number of scientists and technical officers reside.

He was produced in the SDJM court at Balasore and remanded in judicial custody after his bail application was rejected. On Tuesday, four contractual employees – Basanta Behera (52) of Jhampura, Hemanta Kumar Mistri (52) of Buanla, Tapas Ranjan Nayak (41) of Palasia and Sk Musafir (32) of Srikona were arrested.

The five have been booked for their anti-national act and criminal conspiracy and under various sections of the Official Secrets Act. While preliminary investigations revealed they were honey-trapped and leaked defence secrets with foreign agents, purportedly Pakistani agents in exchange of money, the NIA is expected to unravel their links.

A contractual photographer of ITR Iswar Chandra Behera, who was arrested on the charges of espionage six years ago and awarded life sentence in February this year, had allegedly received money from Meerut in exchange of information and photos from the test range.

“The NIA will investigate if there is any link between the two cases and whether the agents are the same persons. Since in both the cases the accused persons had shared information about the missile tests, the NIA may go deeper to ascertain who else are involved and what more might have been shared,” said an official.

Meanwhile, the Crime Branch of Police has taken over the charge of investigation from the local police. A special investigating team headed by Additional SP of Crime Branch Prasanta Bisoi met Balasore police and started preparation to approach the court for remand of the accused persons.​

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