Bhopal: Over 70 lakh cell phone numbers presently active in India might well be in use by those indulging in suspicious activities, like running parallel phone exchanges in the country by handlers operating from Pakistan, police investigations have revealed.

This came to light following weeks of investigations into cell phone numbers, after police in February 2017 busted illegal phone exchanges-cum-spying rings that were being operated by local people at behest of Pakistani handlers in MP’s cities including Bhopal, Gwalior and Jabalpur. They were Chinese SIM box-based illegal phone exchanges.

Investigations by the Madhya Pradesh police’s anti-terrorism squad (ATS) have expressed possibility of over 70 lakh SIM cards in use across the country by people involved in nefarious activities. Besides running Chinese SIM-box phone exchanges, the Pakistani handlers may be involved in spying and phone game frauds, police sources said.

“Odisha and Rajasthan police have recently sought more details about the SIM-box phone exchanges cracked by us in MP in February along with the copies of FIR to work in similar matters in their states,” an MP ATS official said wishing anonymity. The MP ATS has also shared details of over 100 illegal phone exchanges operating in all major cities of the country especially south and east India with central intelligence agencies.

According to sources, the MP police have sent detailed information along with list of the 70-lakh plus cell-phone numbers to union telecom ministry for further probe. The data has also been shared with other central government agencies.

The probe revealed that “there was heavy traffic of international calls” received on these numbers. The police investigation also revealed that the illegal phone exchanges were using Chinese SIM boxes equipped with multiple GSM SIM cards to convert internet calls emanating from Pakistani handlers via VoIP gateways into local GSM calls. This caused enormous loss to the telecom department’s exchequer, sources said.

The local operators who were arrested by MP ATS from Bhopal, Gwalior and Satna included a BJP IT cell convener in Bhopal Dhruv Saxena and the brother-in-law of a woman BJP leader in Gwalior. “They received commissions in their accounts for operating the exchanges,” police sources said.

The exchanges were being used to dupe Indians through phone gaming fraud by Pak handlers and the fraud money was being parked in bank accounts in Satna and Rewa district with the help of local men.

The money parked in these accounts was being withdrawn and sent via hawala channels to Pakistani spies who were active in terror-struck Jammu and Kashmir. These spies included Satwindar and Dadu who were arrested in November-December 2016 in Jammu and Kashmir.

During interrogation, they revealed to police that their activities were financed through illegal phone exchanges, many of which were operational in MP.

At least 15 people including a man from Jamui (Bihar) and a hawala trader-cum-exporter from old Delhi besides other accused from MP have been jailed in the case.

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