Illegal phone exchanges thriving on SIM boxes, VoIP

As technology develops, so does the scope to misuse it. The police observed it with Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) facility, which is increasingly used for criminal activities.

Flashers, devices that can change IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) numbers of handsets, are used to make stolen cell phones untraceable, and SIM boxes enable setting up of illegal telephone exchanges that rake in crores of rupees and cause massive losses to the government. In August this year, the Mumbai Police Crime Branch busted two illegal exchanges in the Shivaji Nagar and Cheetah Camp areas of Eastern Mumbai, arresting four accused and seizing a total of 14 SIM boxes.

Three months later, the police are still working on ascertaining the scope of the racket.

No international tariff

“Each SIM box can hold up to 32 SIM cards which route international calls. A person in Dubai can call a local number from Dubai, which will be routed to a number in India and then to the intended call recipient. This way, the caller avoids the international tariff, which causes loss of revenue to the government. Even if operators of SIM box rackets charge 60% of the tariff, they make crores in a month,” said a Crime Branch officer who is part of the probe. Investigations into the racket busted in Cheetah Camp have revealed that each SIM card routed thousands of calls every day from various countries in Asia.

“The accused running the Cheetah Camp racket would split the spoils with his counterpart in Dubai, and made lakhs every month. He made so much money that he was looking to invest it in a legitimate business and was going to apply for an Internet Service Provider’s licence,” the officer said.

Hawala money

Investigations conducted so far into the two illegal exchanges that were running in Mumbai have indicated that the accused got money from their Dubai counterparts via hawala channels.

The Dubai-based operators, who were allegedly the masterminds, would take a percentage of the profits, keep some aside for maintenance of equipment and send the rest to their Indian counterparts.

 Word of mouth

“The entire racket was operating on word of mouth. The Dubai-based operators had spread the word that they had the resources in case anyone wanted to make calls abroad at concessional rates. The preliminary estimate of the losses caused to the national exchequer is around ₹100 crore. The figure is likely to go up as the number of calls routed through each SIM card is calculated,” another officer said.

Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Sanjay Saxena, Mumbai, said the easy availability of technology was the biggest factor working in favour of such racketeers.

“The SIM boxes in both the rackets busted in Eastern Mumbai had been procured from China. SIM boxes can be easily smuggled in. Unless we have specific information, intercepting them is impossible. It is only when someone is caught using them that we take action,” Mr. Saxena said.

The Department of Telecommunications, which has the resources to monitor cellular traffic, now regularly looks out for heavy traffic from a single SIM card in order to identify such rackets. Information on such SIM cards is then provided to the law-enforcement agencies in the city concerned.

The other major concern, apart from loss of revenue, is the possible use of such rackets by terrorists.

In June this year, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad, acting on information from the Military Intelligence unit in Jammu and Kashmir, busted three illegal telephone exchanges in Latur. Agents of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, are suspected to have received instructions from their handlers across the border via calls routed through these exchanges.

“We are still looking into the terror aspect of the case, as it involves large amount of analysis. No possibility is being ruled out,” said Additional Director General of Police Atulchandra Kulkarni, who heads the Maharashtra ATS.

An ATS officer added: “Even if we do bust such rackets and get evidence of calls being routed from hostile nations, identifying the callers is a challenge. Hundreds of SIM cards are used and discarded by terrorists on a daily basis, thanks to the availability of SIM cards without enough verification.”

Sources said that the SIM box technology that is seen today is a much advanced version of similar technology which was developed around 10 years ago.

“Earlier, such rackets could operate with only one SIM card. Soon, SIM boxes which could operate eight SIM cards at a time were developed. The number went up to 16, then 32 and now SIM boxes can hold and operate up to 64 SIM cards. Tracking calls made through SIM boxes is difficult as calls are routed through a random SIM card every time. The Central and State agencies have been busting such rackets for over 10 years now, right from the time racketeers would sit in a small shop and route international calls through a single SIM card every day. There have been operations where entire rows of such shops have been raided in various parts of India,” a senior officer in anti-terror enforcement told The Hindu.

 Call centres busted

The other kind of racket that is rapidly growing — two such rackets were busted in Mumbai’s Malad area earlier this month — is one in which people abroad are cheated by Indian nationals using VoIP calling facility. Since October last year, five ‘call centres’ have been busted by the Thane and Mumbai police. In both the rackets, the accused were calling up U.S. citizens posing as officers of the Internal Revenue Service and conning them into paying large amounts of money to “settle” their “tax irregularities.”

Investigating officials said the rackets were ridiculously easy to set up, as they just required basic infrastructure needed to set up a call centre. Staffers were recruited and trained in U.S. laws and accents, after which they started calling up hundreds of people on a daily basis.

After the Mumbai Crime Branch busted the Malad racket, several other such rackets in Mumbai and Thane reacted to the crackdown and have reportedly shut down. “Since VoIP calls cannot be tracked or intercepted, human intelligence was the only way the rackets could be busted. Unless Internet Service Providers start tracking the usage of their clients to look out for heavy traffic, there is not much that law-enforcement agencies can do,” a senior Mumbai Police Crime Branch officer said. Even if the caller succeeded in fooling 10 out of the 50 people he called every day, he would make hundreds of dollars, said officers.

The use of VoIP in crime has long been an issue. The Mumbai Crime Branch has, in the past, written to the DoT seeking checks on VoIP calls, after it was found that underworld elements based abroad were using the facility to make calls for extortion and to contact their foot soldiers in India.

How does it work?
  • A person based abroad, wishing to make a call to India, learns about SIM box rackets
  • He or she makes a call to a number supplied. The call is forwarded to one of the many SIM cards in a SIM pool. The SIM pool has up to 64 SIM cards, all of them Indian numbers.
  • The call is then routed through the Indian SIM card to the number of the intended recipient.
  • As the call is routed through a local number, it reflects a local call and not an international call, allowing a caller to avoid paying international tariff.
  • Operators of the SIM box racket charge up to 60%  of the official tariff, splitting the proceeds with their Indian counterparts.
SOURCE: THE HINDU

Can an FIR be filed against a sitting judge?

Can the police or any investigating agency file a first information report (FIR) against a sitting High Court or a Supreme Court judge and even the Chief Justice of India?

The question was repeatedly asked by Justice Arun Mishra in a Constitution Bench hearing on November 10. Justice Mishra was repeatedly heard telling advocate Prashant Bhushan that it is contempt to claim that the FIR in the medical college bribery case directly involves the Chief Justice of India. “It is contempt to say that the FIR names the CJI. Can there be an FIR against a sitting judge of a superior court? That is not the procedure,” Justice Mishra observed. So, what is the procedure? The answer is found in the majority judgment delivered by a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the K. Veeraswami case.

The majority held that no criminal case shall be registered under Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code (an FIR) against a judge of the High Court, Chief Justice of the High Court or a judge of the Supreme Court unless the government first “consults” the Chief Justice of India. The justification given was that the CJI’s assent was imperative as he was a “participatory functionary” in the appointment of judges.

The Veeraswami case specifically dealt with the Prevention of Corruption Act in judiciary, but the majority judgment had extended its ambit to “any criminal case”.

“Due regard must be given by the government to the opinion expressed by the Chief Justice. If the Chief Justice is of opinion that it is not a fit case for proceeding under the Act, the case shall not be registered,” the majority judgment held.

The verdict held that if the the Chief Justice of India himself is the person against whom the allegations of criminal misconduct are received, the government shall consult any other judge or judges of the Supreme Court.

If the CJI allows the FIR to be registered, the government shall, for the second time, consult him on the question of granting sanction for prosecution.

The Veeraswami judgment holds that “it shall be necessary and appropriate that the question of sanction be guided by and in accordance with the advice of the Chief Justice of India”. The majority in the Constitution Bench classifies a judge as a “public servant”.

Consultation with the CJI while registering a criminal case against a judge, whether of the High Court or the Supreme Court, has been made mandatory to protect the independence of judiciary.

Similarly, the Supreme Court has also laid down guidelines for the arrest of a judicial officer of the subordinate judiciary.

Only a formal arrest

The Delhi Judicial Service Association versus State of Gujarat judgment of the Supreme Court was the product of the notorious treatment meted out to the Nadiad Chief Judicial Magistrate by a few Gujarat police officials. It had the country’s legal and judicial bodies in an uproar, compelling the Supreme Court to issue directions of the procedure to be followed while arresting a judicial officer. Primarily, the court held that a judicial officer “should be arrested for any offence under intimation to the District Judge or the High Court”.

The immediate arrest shall only be a “technical or formal arrest”, after which it should be immediately communicated to the District and Sessions Judge of the district concerned and the Chief Justice of the High Court.

The arrested judicial officer shall not be taken to a police station without the prior orders of the District Judge and no statements shall be recorded from him or her except in the presence of a counsel. He or she will not be handcuffed.

Section 3 of the Judges (Protection) Act of 1985 protects judges and former judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts from “any civil or criminal proceedings” for any act, thing or word committed, done or spoken by him in the course of their judicial duty or function. No court shall entertain such complaints.

Section 77 of the IPC exempts judges from criminal proceedings for something said or done during judicial duties.

The government can initiate criminal proceedings against a sitting or former judge of a superior court under sub section (2) of Section 3 of Judges (Protection) Act, 1985 if it can produce material evidence to show that a judgment was passed after taking a bribe.

SOURCE: THE HINDU

Maharashtra legislator Jayant Patil shouts at Shah Rukh Khan

A Maharashtra MLC lost his cool and shouted at Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan at a jetty here for allegedly delaying his departure to the coastal town of Alibaug in neighbouring Raigad district.

A video of the incident has gone viral on the social media.

The incident reportedly took place on November 3. MLC Jayant Patil told a local news channel that he wanted to leave for Alibaug from the Gateway of India jetty, but could not reach his boat as the actor’s private yacht was also docked there. In the video, the MLC is seen shouting at the actor saying, “You may be a superstar, but have you bought entire Alibaug? You cannnot enter Alibaug without my permission.”

SOURCE: PTI

Congress wins Chitrakoot Assembly bypoll

The Congress on Sunday won the Chitrakoot Assembly bypoll in Madhya Pradesh with its candidate Nilanshu Chaturvedi defeating his nearest BJP rival Shankar Dayal Tripathi by a margin of 14,133 votes.

While Mr. Chaturvedi polled 66,810 votes, Mr. Tripathi got 52,677 votes, returning officer A.P. Dwivedi said.

The counting of votes polled began at around 8 a.m. amid tight security in Satna district.

Around 65% voting was recorded in the bypoll necessitated following the death of sitting Congress MLA Prem Singh (65).

Prem Singh had won the Assembly constituency in the 1998, 2003 and 2013 elections. However, he had lost the seat to BJP’s Surendra Singh Gaharwar in the 2008 polls.

Though 12 candidates contested the by-election, the fight was on between Mr. Chaturvedi and Mr. Tripathi.

SOURCE: PTI

Another Alwar lynching: Cow vigilantes attack Muslim youths transporting cattle, one dead

One of the two victims, identified as Ummar Khan died in the attack while his companion Tahir Khan is battling for his life in a private hospital, said a News18 report.

 The report added that the incident took place in Fahari village near Govindh Gadh in Alwar district of Rajasthan when the youths were transporting cows from Mewat in Haryana to Bharatpur in Rajasthan.

According to an India Today report, the Meo community of the region has alleged that right-wing organisations in collusion with the police thrashed the youths. The report added that the community members have demanded a high-level probe into the incident.

“The attack took place at around five in the morning. We are calling it a case of lynching too as they have not only been shot but also beaten up. We will press charges accordingly,” Sher Muhammad, chairman of the Meo Panchayat of Alwar, told News18

The latest incident come months after Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer, was brutally beaten to death by cow vigilantes in Alwar district. Khan and at least four others were injured when a mob had attacked nearly 15 persons hailing from Haryana, while transporting cows in vehicles on the Behror highway in Alwar district on 5 April.

In September, the Rajasthan police had given a clean chit to the six people named in the Pehlu Khan lynching incident. Following this, Khan’s family had sought a court-monitored probe into the killing and said the case must be shifted out of the state.

Pehlu Khan’s son Irshad, who was present when the attack took place, told the media that those given a clean chit by Rajasthan Police were among the attackers.

In October, the Alwar police was accused of playing into the hands of cow vigilantes when a Muslim family alleged that local police snatched their cows and handed over to a gaushalaDeccan Chronicle had reported.

Subba Khan, 45, had, the report added, alleged that local police forcibly took away his 51 cows at the behest of Hindu activists on 3 October.

“They said we were cow smugglers. When I tried to intervene, they pushed me. The police were present, but they were mere spectators. Later, with the help of the police, the cows were taken to Shri Krishna Gaushala in Bambora Ghati by the cow vigilantes,” Khan’s wife Baseri told Hindustan Times.

With inputs from agencies

SOURCE: FIRSTPOST

Gauri Lankesh murder probe to conclude in weeks

The probe into the murder of activist and journalist Gauri Lankesh is nearing completion and the names of the perpetrators will be revealed in a “matter of weeks,” said Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy.

Interacting with reporters on Saturday, Mr. Reddy said the probe had narrowed down on suspects responsible for the killing of Gauri Lankesh.

“There is no deadline for the completion of the probe, but it is only a matter of weeks now. Unlike the murders of Dabholkar and Pansare (who were killed in Maharasthra in the past three years) where the probe has stretched on for years, the Special Investigation Team here has definite clues and knows the identities of those who killed Gauri Lankesh. The process of evidence collection is on,” he said in a meeting organised by Press Club Bengaluru.

Meanwhile, the Home Minister said Central agencies, including Income Tax Department, Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation and even Election Commission were being misused against the Opposition.

‘Misusing agencies’

Recently, Minister M.B. Patil alleged that his phone was being tapped; while Chief Minister Siddaramaiah alleged that IT officials had told Minister D.K. Shivakumar, during a raid, to join BJP.

“This is what happens when there is an autocratic government in the country where all the power is vested in one person. All agencies are being misused on a large-scale, something that was not seen in the previous UPA government,” said Mr. Reddy.

He added that senior police officials were asked to present a report on Mr. Patil’s allegations.

SOURCE: THE HINDU

Avoid nobroker.in at all cost: Fraud company will only swindle you off registration fee and collect your data

I registered with nobroker.in to find a shared accommodation in Mumbai western suburbs. When I checked the listings, they showed me several shared listings in the Andheri to Malad, but they would not let me contact the owner. For that, I had to sign up. I promptly signed up after submitting my phone no and email id and the mobile phone verification OTP came within seconds. Even the email verification link was immediate. However, about 10 hours have passed and I am still waiting for nobroker.in to send me the contact details of the owners offering shared accommodation or PG facilities in the western suburbs of Mumbai. They cannot claim that their servers are down or systems not working, because both the mobile verification OTP and the email verification link came immediately. They verified my data and now have not sent me even a single contact number of shared acco or PG service. From this I have concluded that nobroker.in only collects user data – mobile no and email ids – by putting up fake advertisements – and sells the data later on. 

Beware of this fraud company… there are several more complaints on other consumer sites….which I will repost later on