Three people, including a senior freelance journalist, have been arrested for spying for China, even as tensions simmer between the two nations. Both countries have deployed thousands of soldiers along the 3,488km-long disputed border.

The Delhi Police special cell claimed that it was tipped off by a central intelligence agency about a spy ring involving one Indian journalist and a Chinese and Nepalese national, disclosing sensitive information like the troop movement, defence acquisition, issues on Dalai Lama and foreign policy to Chinese intelligence officials in exchange of large amount of money and luxury holidays.

Rajeev Sharma, a freelance journalist, a Chinese national identified as Qing Shi and her Nepalese partner Sher Singh alias Raj Bohra, have been arrested by the police.

Delhi Police, on Saturday, said it received inputs from a central intelligence agency about Sharma on September 14. The police began investigating the tip-off, and during the probe it was revealed that the journalist had been approached by a Chinese agent to divulge crucial information concerning the Army and border strategy.

Sharma has been working as a journalist for several years, and since 2010, he has been working as freelancer.

Police sources said he was working with the Chinese and Nepalese national and there is evidence of Sharma receiving funds via hawala and other channels. In last two years, he is said to have received Rs 40 lakh, according to the police.

The Chinese and Nepalese national are found to be operating a shell company through which the money was being routed, said police sources. Originally, a couple from China were the directors of the shell company, but when they moved back to their country, they made the Chinese and Nepalese national the directors, said the police sources.

Sanjeev Kumar Yadav, DCP, special cell, said the Chinese national had taken admission in Jamia Millia Islamia for a course in 2013. He said Sharma had a journalistic circle which made it easier for him to get information. Further more, he also had PIB accreditation which made getting information easier.

During the search of the house of Sharma in Pitampura, New Delhi, the police claimed to have confiscated a laptop, some confidential documents related to Indian defence department and some other incriminating documents.

During interrogation, Yadav said Sharma confessed about his involvement in procurement of secret/sensitive information and conveying the same to his Chinese handlers, namely Michael and George, based in Kunming in China through digital channels.

“He further disclosed that he was about to send/convey these recovered secret documents to his handlers. In the past also, he had sent several documents in the form of reports to his handlers and got a handsome remuneration for the same,” said the police.

Yadav said during the period of 2010-2014, Sharma wrote a weekly column for Global Times, widely known as a mouthpiece of the Chinese government. A Chinese intelligence agent named Michael from Kunming city of China, who has been following the column of Sharma, contacted him through LinkedIn and invited him to Kunming for an interview in a Chinese media company. The entire trip was funded by Michael.

The Delhi Police further claimed that during the meeting, Michael and his junior, Xou, asked Sharma to provide inputs on various aspects of India-China relations.

“Between 2016 to 2018, Rajeev Sharma was in contact with Michael and Xou. He was tasked to provide information/inputs on issues like Indian deployment on Bhutan-Sikkim-China tri-junction, including Doklam, the pattern of India-Myanmar military co-operation, India-China boundary issue etc. ,” said the police statement.

Subsequently, Sharma had meetings with Michael and Xou in Laos and Maldives once each, and gave briefings on the aforementioned topics. Besides these visits, Sharma was also in contact with Michael and Xou through e-mail and social media.

In January, 2019, Sharma came in contact with another Kunming-based person, George, who was introduced to him as the general manager of a Chinese media company. During the meeting, George asked Sharma to write/inform about issues related to Dalai Lama. Sharma was offered 500 USD per piece of information. George told Sharma that they will send him money through his company’s sister concern based in Mahipalpur, Delhi, being operated by the Chinese national, Qing.

“Rajeev Sharma has received more than Rs 30 lakh from George in about 10 installments from January 2019 to September 2020 for the information provided by him. Sharma had further meetings with George in Malaysia and again in Kunming,” said Yadav.

During the investigation, it is revealed that shell companies were being operated by foreign intelligence to transfer funds to Sharma, he said. It was also revealed that Chinese nationals Jhang Chang and his wife Chang-li-lia were running the companies MZ Pharmacy and MZ Malls, under fake names Suraj and Usha. The police said they are both presently in China and on their behalf, Qing Shi and one Raj Bhora have been operating the business from Mahipalpur.

Further probe with respect to the Chinese shell companies based in Mahipalpur is in progress.

Forensic analysis of seized mobile phones and laptops is being conducted to unearth the entire network and conspiracies in this case. Identities and roles of other foreign nationals involved in the espionage racket are also being ascertained, said the police.