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The theft at INS Vikrant is still being probed by NIA and Kerala police
The theft at INS Vikrant is still being probed by NIA and Kerala police
Crime

Exclusive: 13,000 More Fingerprints To Be Scanned In INS Vikrant Case

After scanning finger & palm prints of 3000 personnel, the NIA has upped the ante

Rejimon Kuttappan

Rejimon Kuttappan

Kerala forensic officials are having a tight schedule as the National Investigation Agency has requested them to scan finger and palm prints of 13,000 people who are working and have worked on board INS Vikrant to find the thief or thieves who stole the brain of the vessel.

“Earlier their request was to scan 1200 finger and palm prints. Later on, it became 3000. Now we have completed scanning of 3000 finger and palm prints. But now the NIA wants us to scan 13,000 people who are connected to INS Vikrant,” a senior official at the forensic department in Kerala police told The Lede.

“Upon their request, we have started sending notices to all. Many have left the INS Vikrant job and are working at other places. Some are in the Arab Gulf. Recently, we had to summon a person who was about to leave to the Arab Gulf,” the official added.

Four hard disks, RAMs and processors from INS Vikrant, the country’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC), had gone missing reportedly in the first week of September.

Even though Kerala police probed the case in the first phase, later on, NIA took over charge of the probe.

Designed by the Directorate of Naval Design of the Indian Navy, INS Vikrant is the first warship being constructed by the Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL). Many private and public firms are involved in the construction of aircraft carriers.

According to the forensic expert, there are 12 finger and palm prints found from the crime scene and during the scanning, two were found identical.

“The NIA interrogated the two people. But found them innocent and they were freed,” the forensic official said adding that now higher-level officials will have talks and sort out how the 13,000 finger and palm prints will be scanned.

The official added that it is a Herculean task anyway.

The INS Vikrant is being built by Cochin Shipyard Limited and its 2018-19 annual report, released in the first quarter of this year, says that the IAC project has progressed well and it is in a very critical phase of the project with equipment being energised and commissioned and the setting to work (STW) of various systems underway.

“During the latter part of this year (2019) and early next year, we are targeting to achieve significant milestones on the project. Major efforts have been put in and I am happy to report that discussions are at advanced stages to conclude the contract for the final phase of the IAC project,” Madhu S Nair, the chairman and managing director of the CSL, says.

Once the IAC becomes operational, probably by 2021, India will join an elite group of countries including the US, Russia, China, England and France which have built their own fight carriers.

The theft is a matter of serious concern when the CSL report itself reveals that the project is undergoing a critical stage.

So far the date and time of the theft are unknown. However, according to reports, the theft was noticed on September 13, when the vessel’s integrated platform management system (IPMS) was operated. The IPMS is a computerised system used to monitor a vessel’s course.

“It was faulty. And the processor, RAM and a hard disk installed in the computer system were found to be stolen. Six RAMs of three computers were also missing. So were three processors of as many computers and three hard disks. The stolen devises are worth [Rs] 2.10 lakh,” the report adds.

Following the discovery, the CSL lodged a complaint at the South Kochi police station and the Kerala police formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the case.

According to the forensic official, the stolen hard disks reportedly have sensitive data about the IPMS.

“It [the IPMS] is a computerised system used onboard ships to monitor the working and course of the vessel and to warn against safety risks. If the culprits can crack the system, then they can even sink the vessel,” the official added.

According to the CSL annual report, trials of the IPMS have commenced. A week after the Kerala police investigation, the NIA had taken over the case.

Meanwhile, reports said that considering the gravity of the case, the NIA had re-registered the case by including sections of waging or attempting to wage war or abetting waging of war against the nation.

The report added that the NIA has included IPC Sections 121 (waging or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war against the nation), 121A (conspiracy to commit offences under IPC section 121), besides Sections 457 (trespassing to commit offence), 461 (dishonestly breaking open receptacle containing property) and 380 (theft) that was earlier charged by the Kerala police.

The agency has also included cyber terrorism charges under Section 66F of the Information Technology Act in the case. The theft took place despite special security attention being accorded to the IAC.

According to the CSL report, all security systems and measures introduced and installed in the company were of international standards.

“Periodic joint survey was conducted by the CSL and CISF. Twenty-four hours waterfront patrolling in a dedicated speed boat with armed personnel and wireless surveillance (CCTV) system covering all critical locations and installations are in place,” the CSL report adds.

Till March 31, the CSL has got Rs 1757 crore from the operations of the IAC project. The vessel is being built by the Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) in Kerala.