The Thane Police Crime Branch has arrested four persons for allegedly running an illegal telephone exchange in Bhiwandi that routed inbound international calls to local numbers and cost the government Rs 30 crore in revenue loss.
According to police, Mohammed Aslam Sheikh, Sufian Ansari, Iqbal Suleman and Yunus Azmi were running the racket since the last two years.
Their modus operandi involved routing international calls, primarily from Middle Eastern countries, to local numbers of private telecom providers in a way that they did not feature in the Department of Telecommunication’s (DoT) records.
Since inbound international calls are charged, police estimate that the operation cost the government a revenue loss of approximately Rs 30 crore.
After receiving a tip-off, officials from Unit-1 and Unit-2 of the Thane Crime Branch raided their office in Bhiwandi on Wednesday.
Following the raid, Thane Police Commissioner, Param Bir Singh, told reporters, “We have seized a total of 18 sim card boxes where each box had 420 sim cards. Apart from this, we also seized 9 routers, two laptops & five mobiles worth Rs 17 lakh and Rs 15000 cash.”
“We have arrested four people, who are residents of Bhiwandi and they are being kept in police custody after having been produced in court. The seized sim cards are bogus and are acquired through fake documents. The calls were connected mainly from Middle East countries (UAE and Saudi Arabia)”, he added.
The accused offered ‘cheap and untraceable’ communication to their local customers in exchange for a small fee. The main accused, who is believed to have set up the operation and trained others, is yet to be arrested.
The remaining offenders have been booked under sections 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the Indian Telegraph Act and Indian Wireless Act.
The cops have also sought the help of the Cyber Cell Department to understand how the accused were able to route international calls from their SIM boxes to local numbers without leaving any trace.