The CBI has arrested accused freelance journalist Vivek Raghuvanshi and his associate Ashish Pathak, a former Navy Commander, on charges of passing on confidential documents relating to the country’s security to foreign agencies.

The arrests follow searches carried out by CBI at a dozen locations in the national capital region and Jaipur after registering an FIR against Raghuvanshi on charges of leaking secret information relating to the country’s defence information to foreign countries.

The CBI had booked them on December 9, 2022, for passing sensitive information and documents prejudicial to the country’s interest under Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act (OSA), read with criminal conspiracy under 120-B of Indian Penal Code (IPC). While Raghuvanshi was a defence correspondent with a US defence news portal, former Navy Commander Pathak was associated with a private firm.

The CBI alleged that the “accused was involved in the illegal collection of sensitive information, including minute details of DRDO defence projects and their progress, sensitive details about the future procurement of Indian armed forces, which reveals the strategic preparedness of the country’s classified communications/ information relating to national security, details of the strategic and diplomatic talks of India with our friendly countries”. The two also shared “such classified information with intelligence agencies of foreign countries”.

The agency, during searches, seized 48 electronic devices, including laptops, tablets, mobile phones hard disks and pen drives belonging to the two accused and others associated with them. Besides, a number of incriminating documents relating to Indian defence establishments have also been seized, informed the agency.

“The data stored in cloud-based accounts / e-mails / social media accounts belonging to the accused / others have also been recovered by the CBI’s digital forensic experts. It was also alleged that the accused and his associate (Ex-Navy Commander, presently working with a private firm), were in possession of classified secret documents related to Indian defence establishments,” the CBI said in a statement.

The scrutiny of devices recovered so far from the possession of the accused also revealed that Raghuvanshi and Pathak were “allegedly collecting confidential information related to India’s Defence procurement from different sources and was in contact with several foreign entities, agents, persons”. Raghuvanshi is also alleged to have entered into contracts and agreements with several foreign entities for sharing of confidential information, and he and his family members had received a substantial amount from foreign sources, the agency revealed.