Home >News >India >2 Colonels, others on Pegasus list

Phone numbers belonging to former director-general of Border Security Force (BSF) K.K. Sharma, senior Enforcement Directorate (ED) officer Rajeshwar Singh and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s former aide V.K. Jain, among others, were potentially targeted for surveillance through Israeli firm NSO’s Pegasus spyware, a report said on Monday.

According to The Wire, phone numbers used by a junior official in the Prime Minister’s Office, a retired officer of India’s external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and two army colonels also figure in the database of 50,000 numbers possibility selected for surveillance by agencies that were also clients of the NSO Group.

The Wire said Sharma’s number was placed on the list in 2018, barely a month after the 1982 batch IPS officer attended a conference by an affiliate of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) in Kolkata in February. Sharma didn’t respond to calls and texts to seek his response.

The numbers of ED’s controversial joint director Rajeshwar Singh, currently posted in Lucknow, and his family members, were also in the list, The Wire reported. Singh was in the news in 2018 when the Centre removed then Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Alok Kumar Verma and then special director Rakesh Asthana from the agency following their public spat. There have been reports that Rajeshwar Singh played a key role in the Verma-Asthana face-off. When contacted by HT, Singh refused to comment. The Wire report said Kejriwal’s ex-adviser Jain’s name was added to the list in 2018 after he was questioned by the Delhi Police in connection with the alleged assault on then Delhi chief secretary Anshu Prakash in February 2018. Jain could not be contacted for his comments.

The number of a former colonel Mukul Dev, who has been at loggerheads with the Centre on multiple issues, including scrapping free rations for officers deployed in peace areas, was also placed as a possible target in 2019, The Wire added. Dev told HT: “I have been victimized by this government in every possible manner for fighting for the welfare of the armed forces. This is the state of present government. I knew back in 2018 that I am under surveillance when I filed a complaint with Punjab Police following a direct threat to me."

The Wire report further said that BSF Commandant Jagdish Mathani, a retired RAW officer Jitendra Kumar Ojha, a senior official at Niti Aayog and a junior official at PMO were also on the snoop list.

Mathani refused to comment while Amit Kumar and Ojha could not be contacted for comment.

The government has neither confirmed nor denied whether it has purchased the spyware. NSO Group has on multiple occasions said that it offers services only to vetted government clients. The company has disputed the leaked list of numbers as those targeted by its clients.

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