An Indian spy is currently facing serious allegations for leaking classified information about Indian Navy submarines and warships to Pakistani intelligence operatives for cryptocurrency, an act that could potentially lead to the death penalty.
Manmohan Surendra Panda, a resident of Mumbai, has been accused by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of spying for Pakistani operatives and subsequently selling highly confidential naval documents.
Local media reports suggest that Panda was actively involved in espionage, sharing India’s classified information with an operative known as ‘Harsh.’ In return for his covert activities, he purportedly received payments through “crypto channels,” with various other Pakistani operatives contributing to these cryptocurrency transactions.
Panda now faces a litany of charges, including spying under Section 3 of The Official Secrets Act (OSA), conspiracy towards acts of terrorism under Section 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and destroying evidence under Section 201 of The Indian Penal Code.
The implications of these charges become all the more weighty when considering the Official Secrets Act.
It stipulates that penalties for spying “in the interest or for the benefit of a foreign power, or is in relation to any work of defence, arsenal, naval, military,” could lead to either the death penalty or a 14-year prison sentence. Furthermore, Panda is also grappling with the possibility of life imprisonment under the conspiracy charge. His arrest took place several months ago.
In a similar case from 2021, an American couple chose to sell confidential information related to US nuclear submarines, receiving payment in the form of $100,000 worth of the privacy-oriented cryptocurrency Monero.
The couple decided to share excerpts of classified documents with an individual they believed represented a foreign power. Unfortunately for them, this person turned out to be an undercover FBI agent.
Their espionage operation involved a unique method – concealing the documents on SD cards, cleverly hiding them within everyday objects, and placing them in designated drop-off points. Items used for this purpose included a peanut butter sandwich, a chewing gum packet, and band-aid packaging.
The consequences for the American couple were severe. In 2022, they pleaded guilty to their espionage scheme. Jonathan Toebbe received a sentence of over 19 years in prison, while his wife, Diana Toebbe, faced a harsher punishment, with a sentence of more than 21 years.