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Satellite swoop nets Mexican

Calcutta, Aug. 28: Calcutta police today launched an investigation that involved networking with counterparts in Chennai, Bangalore and Mexico after taking into custody six persons, including a Mexican, in the past 24 hours.

The probe started after the police detained two persons from the Ballygunge area for tapping into VSNL’s satellite links with a dish antenna and arrested two youths from a guesthouse in New Market. The youths are suspected to be LTTE members.

Puli Giri Vardhan and Vijay Vardhan, both from Bangalore, were picked up from a rented house on Garcha Road where they had set up the dish antenna to catch satellite frequencies. The house-owner was also detained.

Apparently, what aroused suspicion was a tip-off that they had taken 16 cellphone connections. Officials then tracked down the area from where the phones were being operated. They found the dish antenna after a survey in the Garcha Road area. “Soon, we sought help from army experts,” said Shivaji Ghosh, deputy commissioner of police, headquarters.

After interrogating the two, investigators picked up the foreigner, Xavier Martinez Rodia, from a hotel on Ganesh Chandra Avenue. “We have not arrested them as VSNL authorities are yet to lodge a complaint. Senior VSNL officials are interrogating the suspects,” Ghosh added.

Police said the plan of tapping satellite links by using a dish antenna was Rodia’s brainchild. “He was staying at the hotel for the past couple of months while the two Tamil youths had rented a room in a guesthouse on Free School Street one-and-half months ago,” said Ghosh. “We are not sure whether the satellite was being used for sending secret data abroad.”

The Tamil youths — T.P. Rajesh and K. Rabichandra from Trichi — have been remanded in police custody till September 4. “Nothing can be ruled out,” Zulfiquar Hasan, DC (central), said, when asked about their role. “We have already contacted our counterparts in Chennai and requested them to send their backgrounds.”

Hasan said the police acted on specific information and rounded up the two early today from a Sudder Street guesthouse where they have been staying for the last couple of days under assumed names. “They identified themselves as Raghulal Mahalingam and Karan Raj in the guesthouse’s register-book,” he added. “We came to know their original name from their passports. We have contacted the regional passport officer in Chennai to know whether the passports are genuine or not.”

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