New Delhi: The ED on Saturday (July 3) said it has seized a Delhi-based freelance journalist in association with a money-laundering trial linked to supposed leakage and supply of sensitive data to Chinese intelligence officers.
Freelance journalist Rajeev Sharma was detained under the criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) on July 1 and furnished before a local court here on Friday (July 2).
The court authorised the Enforcement Directorate (ED) seven days’ detention of Sharma, the central investigation agency said in a statement.
The agency said its trial found that 62-year-old Sharma “had supplied confidential and sensitive data to Chinese intelligence officers, in exchange for remuneration thereby dealing with the security and national interests of India”.
“It was further disclosed that cash for remuneration of Sharma and other unknown people was being generated through a ‘hawala’ by Mahipalpur-based (an area in Delhi) shell companies that were operated 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 asserted.
Besides cash, huge business was made with various Chinese companies and some other trading companies in India which are being probed, the ED said.
“These Chinese organisations were acting as a duct for the Chinese intelligence agencies to provide remuneration for persons like Sharma who satiate in criminal activities,” it said.
“Rajeev Sharma also obtained money through benami bank accounts in order to hide his involvement in criminal activities,” the agency asserted.
The ED case is based on a Delhi Police FIR lodged under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and different sections of the IPC against Sharma last year.
He was caught by the Delhi Police special cell on September 14 last year and was accused of passing on data about the Indian Army’s deployment and the country’s outskirt plans to Chinese intelligence.
The journalist was given bail by the Delhi High Court in December 2020 after he sought statutory bail on the basis that the charge sheet was not produced within 60 days of his custody.
Sharma used to operate a YouTube channel called “Rajeev Kishkindha”, which has thousands of followers. On the day of his capture, he uploaded two videos.
One of the videos asserted that China would still do “trouble” although talks with India amid border tensions. The other video grieved the state of journalism in the country.
The Press Club of India (PCI) had criticized the Delhi Police for its “high-handed” action against Sharma.
“We are amazed to hear of the capture of Rajeev Sharma, a well-known independent journalist and a member of the Press Club of India,” it had said in a statement.
“This is on account of the indefinite track record of the special branch. More generally also, the report of the Delhi Police is hardly a shining one,” the PCI had said.