BHOPAL: In a major breakthrough Madhya Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) busted an international call racket used by ISI agents to spy on India’s military operations.
The spy ring facilitated calls from and to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, bypassing legal channels.
At least 40 ‘Simboxes’ (Chinese-made gadget that holds multiple SIM cards) and 3,000 SIM cards have been seized from eleven suspects, including a BJP leader’s brother, arrested from Bhopal, Gwalior and Satna. They have all been booked on charges of waging war against the country. Officials expect more arrests soon.
The suspects were involved in espionage, money laundering and fraud, say police. MPATS chief Sanjeev Shami, who led the operation, said that more people including those working with telecom majors are on the radar and would be behind bars.
Besides the crime of spying against the country, the racket also led to massive loss to the telecom department. “They were running a parallel telecom exchange, enabling cross-border handlers posing as senior Army officers to call up military personnel posted in Jammu and Kashmir and dig out details of operations, deployment and installations,” said Shami.
The MPATS team was working 24×7 in coordination with central agencies for the last two months. While three people were arrested from Bhopal, five were arrested from Gwalior, two from Jabalpur and one from Satna district.
MPATS officials have seized several Chinese equipment, including mobile phones, laptops and data cards.
Calls made via internet were sent to these SIM-boxes which redirected the illegal VoIP traffic onto mobile networks. Those involved bypassed the interconnect toll charging points to exploit the difference between the high interconnect rates and the low retail price for on-network calls, therefore avoiding payment of the official call termination fee of an Operator.
ATS was helped by TERM (Telecom Enforcement Resource and Monitoring) cell of the union telecom ministry in understanding technicalities such as call spoofing and SIM box-aided call transfers that these accused employed. These “exchanges” made lakhs by routing international calls bypassing legal gateways. They used to help callers based in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh eavesdrop on military operations using ‘interconnect bypass fraud’.
MPATS got the lead from interrogation of two persons — Satvinder Singh and Dadu who were arrested in November 2016 in RS Pura sector on the international border in Jammu and Kashmir for allegedly spying for Pakistan and sharing secret information on social networking sites.
Singh and Dadu were caught while they were roaming in border area of Suchetgarh and taking pictures of the security establishments, a police officer said.
During interrogation both allegedly revealed that they were collecting secret information regarding locations of Army and other security forces, and sharing it with Pakistan through social media.
During further investigations it was found that, Satvinder was getting money from Satna-based Balram, who is now in MPATS custody. All of them were produced before a district court which remanded Balram to five days police custody. The rest — Kush Pandit, Jitendra Thakur of Jhansi Road Gwalior, Ritesh Khullar of Kampu Gwalior, Jitendra Singh Yadav of Janak Ganj Gwalior, Trilok Singh of Gwalior — were sent to police remand till February 12. MPATS officials said they are looking for three more key players.