Sharmili Mallick

In the latest breakthrough into the hacking of the WhatsApp account belonging to Manoj Kumar Patnaik, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Odisha Computer Application Centre (OCAC) who also holds the charge of Additional Secretary of the State Electronics And Information Technology (E&IT) Department, a 40-year-old Nigerian national suspected to be the main accused in the case, has been arrested from Bengaluru.

Additional Director General (ADG) Crime Branch (CB) Sanjeeb Panda informed that the accused, Okwudiri Paschal, was arrested by a team of Delhi Police from Bengaluru. He further informed that a two-member team of the Odisha Crime Branch is on the way to Bengaluru from the State.

The team is likely to interrogate Paschal in connection with the WhatsApp hacking of Patnaik. The suspect might be also brought to the State in remand if required, added Panda.

DCP (New Delhi) Deepak Yadav had earlier informed that Paschal was arrested by the Delhi Police while he was withdrawing money from an ATM in Banaswadi area in Bengaluru on November 16. The accused is part of an international cyber fraud racket and has allegedly duped hundreds of people across India, Yadav had said.

Reports said, Delhi and Karnataka Police officials were tracking Paschal after a Delhi resident lodged a complaint regarding a cyber fraud with him on November 2. The complainant claimed that he lost money after he had clicked on a link sent to him from an unknown number.

It may be noted here that the Odisha Crime Branch had sought the help of Delhi Police to ascertain whether Paschal is the same accused who hacked Pattnaik’s WhatsApp account on November 9 and defrauded lakhs of rupees from his contacts by sending them distress messages. The online fraudsters were successful in swindling around Rs 7 lakh from some of Pattnaik’s well-wishers.

Earlier on November 1, the Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Op (IFSO) unit of the Delhi Police had arrested a Nigerian national identified as Chimelum Emmanuel Aniwetalu alias Maurice from the country’s Capital for allegedly running the same cyber fraud syndicate.

Based on the information divulged from Maurice, Delhi Police arrested Paschal, said reports.