Illegal telephone exchange busted, 7 held

Hi-tech crime: The ATS team displays the SIM cards, SIM boxes, laptops, computers and Wi-Fi routers seized after arresting the seven accused in the city, on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: -

The Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) has busted an international racket that routed calls from the Middle East through an illegal telephone exchange to avoid paying international calling charges. Officials said the racket thrived because of the ban on WhatsApp calls in the Middle East.

According to ATS officers, they received a tip-off that an illegal telephone exchange was being operated using SIM box technology. A SIM box enables calls to be routed through the internet, cutting the cellular service provider out of the loop.

Raids across city

Deven Bharti, Additional Director General of Police, ATS, said, “Based on specific information, we conducted simultaneous raids at Shivaji Nagar, Masjid Bunder, Dongri, Worli, Panvel and Kalyan and arrested seven people on Friday. We have seized one server, 513 SIM cards, nine SIM boxes, three laptops, four computers and seven Wi-Fi routers.”

Officials said branches of the exchange were connected to a common server, which would route calls from locations like Dubai, Qatar and Bahrain to Indian numbers. The services of the accused were largely used by Indians working in the Middle East who sought an affordable alternative to international calls.

ATS busted an illegal international telephone exchange racket and arrested its 7 members in Mumbai, Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019.

ATS busted an illegal international telephone exchange racket and arrested its 7 members in Mumbai, Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019.   | Photo Credit: -

Vinay Rathod, deputy commissioner of police, ATS, said, “Apart from the loss caused to the exchequer, the bigger issue with SIM box rackets is that as there is no way of tracking these calls or knowing who is making them. They can be used by terrorist elements because of the anonymity they provide. The seven accused have been active for at least the past four to five months. A preliminary estimate provided by the Department of Telecommunications puts the losses to the exchequer at ₹37.50 crore.”

The accused have been identified as Nazim Khan (29), Faizal Batliwala (40), Sameer Darvez (30), Hussain Sayyed (39), Mandar Achrekar (36), Sibtain Merchant (33) and Imtiaz sheikh (38). Officials said Mr. Khan was arrested by the ATS in a similar case last year. All the accused have sound technical knowledge about the working of a SIM box.

An officer, who is part of the investigation, said, “The accused have counterparts in the Middle East who handle that end of the racket. They collect money from the customers and send the accused their cut through hawala channels. As no loss is caused to the exchequer from where the calls are made, they are, technically, not committing an offence.”

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Printable version | Jul 26, 2021 3:55:05 PM |

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