Updated on: Sunday, May 31, 2020, 04:02 AM IST

Mumbai Crime: Suspected ISI-backed VoIP exchange busted in Govandi


Mumbai: Acting on tip-off from Military Intelligence (MI), the Mumbai Police Crime Branch on Saturday busted anillegalVoice over Internet Protocol(VoIP) and fake SIM box racket in Govandi.

Police sources suspect that the exchange was backed by Pakistan’s ISI, and alleged that it routed many calls from Gulf countries and Pakistan to defence establishments in Poonch and Rajouri in Jammu and Kashmir in attempts to seek sensitive information from defence personnel. While the police have arrested a Govandi resident, Sameer Alwari, 38, probe is underway to ascertain the identity of his accomplices, as well as locations of other similar exchanges inthe city, sources said.

Earlier this month, Crime Branch sleuths received a tip-off from the MI of the J&K unit about a few VoIP calls made from internationalnumbersusing illegal SIM boxes. The intelligence team gave the Crime Branch two Indian numbers, activated from Chhatisgarh and Madhya Pradesh circles, which had suspicious activities, and their IMEI numbers kept changing in the Mumbai circle. The cell towers and location of these numbers were found to be at Govandi.

A team from the Crime Branch raided the premises on Saturday and busted the illegal VoIP exchange, and found four functional and one standby SIM box with a total of 213 SIM cards. A police officer said it is suspected that these SIM cards were being used in an attempt to seek information from defence personnel, and many calls were made to defence establishments in J&K, especially in Poonch and Rajouri districts. Several calls were also made to Leh.

The police also suspects Pakistan ISI's hand behind these calls. A further probe revealed that some illegal VoIP exchanges set up in Mumbai, which route incoming calls from Pakistan to local numbers, using Chinese SIM Boxes (boxes fitted with GSM SIM cards of local cellular service providers), were being used inanattemptto extract sensitive information from defence persons. These SIM boxes also used dynamic IMEI system, which made them difficult to track, and have been declared illegal by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

Akbar Pathan, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Detection-1) said Alwari is a history-sheeter who was arrested by theThane police in 2017 for running a fake call centre. “We are verifying Alwari's role and are trying to ascertain whether he was just a facilitator or was involved in the other anti-national activities as well," said DCP Pathan

The investigation so far has revealed that illegal exchanges have caused revenue losses in crores to the country’s telecom department. Moreover, these exchanges were being used by hostile intelligence agencies to seek military information through calls, and posed as a security threat to the nation, police sources said.

Earlier this year, a similar racket of illegal VoIP exchanges was busted in Noida and Kerala in a joint operation by Mumbai Police and Military Intelligence after defence personnel received calls from suspicious numbers seeking information related to important military establishments.

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Published on: Sunday, May 31, 2020, 04:02 AM IST