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ED arrests freelance journalist in money laundering case

New Delhi: The ED announced on Saturday that it has arrested a Delhi-based freelance journalist in connection with a money-laundering probe related to the alleged leak and supply of sensitive information to Chinese intelligence officers.

Rajeev Sharma, a freelance journalist, was arrested under the criminal provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) on July 1 and appeared in court on Friday (July 2).

The court granted the Enforcement Directorate (ED) seven days’ custody of Sharma, according to a statement from the central probe agency.

The agency said its inquiry 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.

Along with cash transactions, the ED said that huge transactions were made with various Chinese companies as well as with some other Indian trading companies. ‘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 arose from a Delhi Police FIR filed under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and various sections of the IPC against Sharma last year. On September 14, last year, a special cell of the Delhi Police arrested him and charged him with passing on information about the Indian Army’s deployment and the country’s border strategy to Chinese intelligence.

In December 2020, the Delhi High Court granted bail to the journalist after he requested statutory bail on the grounds that the charge sheet had not been filed within 60 days of his arrest. He used to run a YouTube channel called ‘Rajeev Kishkindha’, which has thousands of followers. He uploaded two videos on the day of his arrest.

There was a video that claimed China would still cause trouble, despite upcoming discussions with India on the border. The other video lamented the state of journalism in the country. The Press Club of India (PCI) had criticized the Delhi Police for its ‘high-handed’ approach 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.


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