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Bribery scam: ACB fails to break into arrested IAS officer’s iPhone, iPad

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On Monday, the ACB failed to present before the trial court a report of the State Forensic Science Laboratory on the electronic evidence against the accused.

Mahim Pratap Singh

Rajasthan government has run into an ‘Apple roadblock’ in trying to garner evidence against former Principal Secretary (Mines), Rajasthan, and bribery scam accused IAS officer Ashok Singhvi. The state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) had arrested Singhvi last year for allegedly running a massive bribery scam in the mines department.

On Monday, the ACB failed to present before the trial court a report of the State Forensic Science Laboratory on the electronic evidence against the accused. Officials informed the court that despite several efforts, the ACB could not crack Singhvi’s iPhone and iPad codes.

Recently, in the Unites States, tech giant Apple was in the news when it refused the US law enforcement agencies’ request to break into the iPhone of the San Bernardino massacre accused.

The US law enforcement agencies had asked Apple, via a judicial order, to help it break into the encrypted iphone of Syed Farook, accused of the San Bernardino massacre last December which claimed 14 lives. However, the company denied the request, with CEO Tim Cook writing a public letter last week in which he called the order “an overreach by the US government”.

In Singhvi’s case, Investigating Officer Shankar Dutt Sharma said, “After the accused refused to cooperate with us about the iphone’s pass code, we sent it to the FSL. However, the devices still couldn’t be cracked.”

The ACB will now send the iPhone and the iPad to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory. “We will also write to Apple if the need arises,” said IG Dinesh MN.

IAS officer Ashok Singhvi, then Principal Secretary (Mines), was arrested for allegedly masterminding and running a corruption racket in September last year. Singhvi, along with a middleman and two other officials of the mining department, was arrested for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 2.55 crore. Mining baron Sher Khan, who died last month, and three of his accomplices were also arrested.

The debate over allowing law enforcement agencies access to encrypted devices has divided the tech industry with Google CEO Sundar Pichai backing Apple’s concerns, while former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates has sided with the Justice Department on this “specific case”.

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