Two persons were arrested and illegal VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) exchanges they ran were busted in Latur district on Friday. The illegal exchanges were allegedly used by Pakistani intelligence agency for its espionage operations in India. The raids were conducted by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), in a joint operation with the Latur police and officers from the Department of Telecommunications (prosecution branch).
According to the police, the duo routed international VoIP calls through local mobile numbers and the calls were made to contacts in India to get information on the Indian military.
“A VoIP is the transmission of voice and multimedia content over Internet Protocol (IP) networks. They used to convert VoIP calls from abroad into a voice call illegally and transfer the said voice call to the beneficiary and the call receiver in India through illegal international gateway,” said an official from the state counter-terrorism agency.
“It is learnt that this type of illegal VoIP exchanges were used by the intelligence agency of the neighbouring country to acquire sensitive military information,” the official added.
The two arrested were identified as Shankar Biradar (33) and Ravi Sabade (27). The police recovered SIM cards, computers and other electronic gadgets from the duo. The DOT pegged the loss to the exchequer, due to the illegal exchanges run by them, at about Rs15 crore. Both the accused are mobile card distributors allegedly running the illegal centers since December last year.
“(In the first raid) A total of 96 SIM cards, one computer, CPU, three machines for call transforming (illegal international gateways) were seized from rented premises of Biradar. This seized property is said to cost about Rs 1,90,000. The accused had been running this illegal telephone exchange for more than six months. According to DOT officials, estimated total revenue loss caused to the national exchequer by this is worth 9 crore rupees,” read a press release of the agency. “Acting quickly on inputs from the first accused, a shop was raided in village Valandi, taluka Devni, in Latur (70 km from the place of first raid) and two illegal international gateways, 14 SIM cards and other miscellaneous electronic material costing about Rs 1,20,000 was seized,” added the release.
A total of 64 SIM cards, a laptop, two unauthorised international gateway machines and other material worth Rs 1,50,000 have been seized from Sabade. The revenue loss calculated by DOT officials, in this case, is worth 6 crores,” the press release added.
Sources said that the two are known to each other. Biradar revealed to the police that he was arrested by the Hyderabad police in the past for a similar offence. “We have shared the information with the cyber wing to get information on the Indian contacts to whom the calls were made. Their questioning will help us ascertain why they were being contacted. At this point we cannot rule out the possibility of the contacts being exploited to collect sensitive information pertaining to our military establishments,” said an official on the condition of anonymity. “Most of the SIM cards used by the duo is of a private mobile network operator, a few are of BSNL. Many of these SIMs were procured by them using fake credentials,” added the official.
The accused are being interrogated by the local police and ATS sleuths. Two separate cases at MIDC and Shivaji Nagar police station in Latur have been registered against the two. “The two have been booked for cheating under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and certain sections of the Indian Telegraph Act and the Indian Wireless & Telegraph Act. Biradar has been remanded in police custody till June 22 and Sabade till June 20. They are being interrogated to find out both the source and the receivers of the calls,” Assistant Police Inspector Ramakant Padawal of the Latur crime branch told The Indian Express. Padwal added that the possibility of further arrests cannot be ruled out.