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6 foreign nationals detained with satellite phones at airport in 2 years since ban

Satellite phones were banned for personal use in India after the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai.

Written by Srinath Raghvendra Rao | Mumbai |
July 21, 2014 1:17:49 am

An Australian geologist and two Russian nationals — including a woman filmmaker — are among six foreign nationals who have been caught carrying satellite phones at the domestic and international airports in Mumbai in the two years since the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) ordered seizure of handsets and detention of users.

In a 2012 circular, the BCAS noted that instances of unauthorised use of Thuraya sets by foreign nationals “reportedly out of ignorance regarding the ban” had “serious security implications”.

Satellite phones were banned for personal use in India after the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai.

Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), said on May 6, 2013, a Russian national, Evigenil Makarov, was detained at the international airport after a satellite phone was detected in his baggage.

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Sources said Makarov, who claimed to be an authorised representative of a Russian firm manufacturing satellite phones for military use, contacted Commander Rajesh Ramkumar, the commanding officer of INS Sindhurakshak. Ramkumar faxed an authority letter and Makarov was released.

Last week, on July 12, an Iridium satellite phone was found in the baggage of an Australian geologist, employed in Malaysia with a mining firm, who was travelling to Goa with his Indian wife at the domestic airport. Police said Andrew McDonald and his wife had landed in Mumbai on July 11. During baggage screening at the security hold area, CISF personnel detected a satellite phone in McDonald’s luggage.

On May 13, Russian national Natalia Volkova was detained at the domestic airport after an Iridium handset was found in her baggage. Volkova, who shoots environmental films for a Russian TV channel, was flying to Diu.

“The phone was sent for forensic tests. No incriminating images were found. Volkova said she had been using it as she received better network coverage in forests,” said Rajendra Nagbhirey, senior inspector, airport police station.

On December 4, 2013, CISF detained Polish national Pitoz Jurewich as an Iridium handset was found in his baggage.

In the third case in 2013, an Iranian couple was held with a Thuraya handset at the domestic airport. Nosratallah Asghar Moharam and Nazanin Saidizand, were flying to Goa. British national Rebecca Harris was caught at the domestic airport on August 8, 2013 with an Iridium satellite phone.

The police said the onus was  on embassies to inform its citizens about the ban. “All the passengers brought to us claimed they were unaware of the ban,” said Nagbhirey.

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