Police said that the accused were converting international calls to local calls, causing huge revenue loss and posing a threat to national security.

Sim cards lying in a tableRepresentational image
news Crime Friday, June 11, 2021 - 09:44

Five people have been arrested by the anti-terror cell of Bengaluru city police in a joint operation with the Military Intelligence over two days in connection with an illegal phone exchange racket. First, on Wednesday,  two individuals — Ibrahim Pullatti (36), hailing from Malappuram in Kerala and Gautam B Vishwanathan (27) from Tirupur in Tamil Nadu — were nabbed. Police had said that they were converting international calls to local calls, causing huge revenue loss and posing a threat to national security. From them, the police had recovered 32 SIM box devices, which can use 960 SIM cards at a time. According to police, Ibrahim is the kingpin and the duo had placed the 32 devices at six areas of the city to carry out their “illegal” activities. On June 9, Bengaluru Police Commissioner Kamal Pant announced a reward of Rs 30,000 to the team which nabbed the two men.

On Thursday, City Police Commissioner Kamal Pant said another two accused, who helped Ibrahim obtain hundreds of SIM cards using the fingerprints of innocent people, have been arrested. In connection with the same case, police have arrested one  'Hawala' operator. Speaking to reporters, Pant said two people, one from Bengaluru and another from Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu, have been arrested. The third man arrested in connection with the case hails from Bhatkal in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. They had allegedly helped Ibrahim obtain a large number of SIM cards to set up an exchange of 960 telephone lines. He, however, did not divulge their identity. "The duo used to obtain SIM cards using multiple fingerprints of those regular customers who used to go to them to get new phone connections," Pant said. 

Speaking about Ibrahim, the city police chief said he had worked in Dubai as a driver and returned from there to set up the telephone exchange in Bengaluru using Voice Over Internet Protocol. Most of the calls originated from the Middle East and a few people there helped Ibrahim in making calls, the officer explained. He added that the payment for the calls used to happen in Dubai and it was routed to India through a money-laundering network. "The man from Bhatkal, whom we have taken in our custody, used to route money through Hawala (money laundering network)," Pant said.

To a question whether such exchanges were a threat to national security, he said it could be used for any purpose. "If a call is not coming through the proper channel, then we will have to look into it seriously. Only after the analysis, we will get to know slowly who were making calls and what their motives were," Pant said. He said the police would take the help of other agencies as well if the need arises for a detailed investigation.

(With PTI inputs)

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