New Delhi: The ED on Saturday (July 3) said it has arrested a Delhi-based freelance journalist in connection with a money-laundering probe linked to alleged leakage and supply of sensitive information to Chinese intelligence officers.
Freelance journalist Rajeev Sharma was arrested under the criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) on July 1 and produced before a local court here on Friday (July 2).
The court granted the Enforcement Directorate (ED) seven days’ custody of Sharma, the central probe agency said in a statement.
The agency said its probe found that 62-year-old Sharma “had supplied confidential and sensitive information to Chinese intelligence officers, in exchange for remuneration thereby compromising the security and national interests of India”.
“It was further revealed that cash for remuneration of Sharma and other unknown persons was being generated through a ‘hawala’ by Mahipalpur-based (an area in Delhi) shell companies that were run by Chinese nationals namely Zhang Cheng alias Suraj, Zhang Lixia alias Usha and Quing Shi, along with a Nepalese national, Sher Singh alias Raj Bohara,” it alleged.
Apart from cash, huge transactions were made with various Chinese companies and some other trading companies in India which are being examined, the ED said.
“These Chinese companies were acting as a conduit for the Chinese intelligence agencies to provide remuneration for persons like Sharma who indulged in criminal activities,” it said.
“Rajeev Sharma also received money through benami bank accounts in order to conceal his involvement in criminal activities,” the agency claimed.
The ED case is based on a Delhi Police FIR filed under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and various sections of the IPC against Sharma last year.
He was arrested by the Delhi Police special cell on September 14 last year and was charged with passing on information about the Indian Army’s deployment and the country’s border strategy to Chinese intelligence.
The journalist was given bail by the Delhi High Court in December 2020 after he sought statutory bail on the grounds that the charge sheet was not filed within 60 days of his arrest.
Sharma used to run a YouTube channel called “Rajeev Kishkindha”, which has thousands of followers. On the day of his arrest, he uploaded two videos.
One of the videos claimed that China would still do “mischief” despite talks with India amid border tensions. The other video deplored the state of journalism in the country.
The Press Club of India (PCI) had criticised the Delhi Police for its “high-handed” action against Sharma.
“We are astounded to hear of the arrest of Rajeev Sharma, a well-known independent journalist of long-standing and a member of the Press Club of India,” it had said in a statement.
“This is on account of the dubious track record of the special branch. More generally also, the record of the Delhi Police is hardly a shining one,” the PCI had said.