In July 2014 an Indian army warrant officer (Subedar) was arrested and charged with spying for Pakistan. The arrested man had been recruited in 2013 via Facebook by a woman who sent him software that he posted to his work server. This software enabled the Pakistanis to hack into the headquarters where the warrant officer worked. The Pakistani woman (or someone posing as a woman) convinced the warrant officer she was interested in him and asked him to help her with some work she was doing for the NGO she was employed by. The warrant officer fell for all this and enabled the Pakistanis to get a lot of information about the readiness and deployment of several Indian missile units. It is as yet unclear if the warrant officer knew he was being played or that he was really smitten by his new online girlfriend.
Using sex (Honey traps) in espionage is common but is less frequently encountered in South Asia. Over the last decade many countries have issued warnings to military personnel, government officials and sometimes the general public, especially businessmen, to beware of foreign countries that are increasingly using the honey trap (sexual entrapment) technique to coerce foreigners into spying for them. Some criminal gangs also use these tactics to extort money from wealthy individuals. All you need is a pretty girl who speaks the right language and is willing to have sex with the victim so that the encounter can be recorded by hidden video cameras.
The use of the honey trap has become rampant in China. It’s gotten to the point where the police have been ordered to crack down on criminal gangs using it against local government officials and businessmen. This is part of the most recent anti-corruption campaign as criminals have been using the honey trap and sexual blackmail to force corrupt Chinese officials to cooperate or simply pay up. In some cases the officials have called the bluff of the blackmailers and that resulted in videos appearing on the Internet, revealing quite graphically the extramarital escapades of corrupt officials. While this is something of a public service, the Chinese police do not approve of this sort of vigilante action. This because the police are frequently on the payroll of corrupt politicians, which gives them another unofficial reason to go after those who use this sort of “honey trap” to fight corruption (and get rich).
The honey trap is most popular in East Asia as a way to recruit spies in other countries. China continues to use honey trap operations with great success. The Chinese, and the Russians, have been doing this sort of thing for years. Inside China this honey trap activity has gotten out of hand because criminal entrepreneurs are using it. The videos do not always feature illicit sex. Sometimes they just show expensive watches, cars, and homes the corrupt officials have accumulated on an official salary that could never pay for all this. While this is something of a public service, most of the time the Chinese people gain nothing because the blackmailed official pays up and that’s the end of it. But government officials, especially more senior (and generally immune to prosecution) ones fear that these honey pot hustlers will snag a really senior official and result in something truly unfortunate, like the sale of the vid to a foreign government or foreign media. Thus the current anti-corruption drive is accompanied by an even more aggressive anti-blackmailer program.
The basic problem is that the honey trap has become such an easy-to-use and profitable scam inside China. That means lots of vids released onto the net because people either didn’t pay up or there was a breakdown in communication or trust. The Internet has an insatiable appetite for this sort of thing and it’s so easy to do that a large number of people are joining in.
Meanwhile India and Pakistan have more success with simply offering cash. An Indian army clerk was arrested in March for doing that. In early 2013 India police arrested four Indians (including an army clerk) and accused them of working for Pakistani intelligence (ISI) and passing on information and documents for at least three years. That spy cell mainly operated near the Nepal border and cash was the main motivator.
But honey traps have been encountered in India. In 2011 an infantry lieutenant-colonel was prosecuted for spying for Pakistan. The officer was recruited in 2010 while in Bangladesh, where he was attending a course at a Bangladesh military school. The Pakistani ISI had a woman operative seduce the Indian officer, and the sexual activity was recorded on video. The officer was given a choice of the video being made public, or him becoming a Pakistani spy. The officer became a spy and was caught by Indian counterintelligence after a few months.
Pakistan is constantly seeking Indian military personnel willing to spy for cash. Even most Indian Moslems have no love for Pakistan and thus ISI concentrates on the greed, need or blackmail approach to recruiting Indian agents. India does the same in Pakistan, but India, with six times the population of Pakistan, is a far larger target.