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How ISI-run Call Routing Racket Cost India OverRs 30,000 Cr

Telecom rackets seem to be the ISI's latest way into India's military installalations. This self-sustaining model of finance, which has come to be known as the SIM box fraud, is estimated to have cost India over Rs 30,000 crore.

Suhas Munshi | News18.com

Updated:February 24, 2017, 7:02 PM IST
How ISI-run Call Routing Racket Cost India OverRs 30,000 Cr
Image for Representative purpose (Image: Reuters)

New Delhi: Telecom rackets seem to be the ISI's latest way into India's military installalations. This self-sustaining model of finance, which has come to be known as the SIM box fraud, is estimated to have cost India over Rs 30,000 crore.

Here's a look at how the Pakistani spy agency allegedly runs this racket, which is now being probed by the Madhya Pradesh anti-terrorist squad after young men from the state were found involved.

Pakistani handlers were found to maintain three desks, which the Madhya Pradesh ATS has internally labelled as Desk 1, Desk 2 and Desk 3. All the desks communicate with each other.

According to investigators, the head of Desk 1 deals directly with the spies , seeks specific intelligence, and keep discarding the spies after a while to avoid any chance of them being converted by Indian agencies.

The head of Desk 2 deals with bank accounts and maintains a ‘fund-clearing house’. Accused Balram Singh, 26, believed to be a key member in the recently created financial wing of the ISI, was the head of one such 'fund clearing house'.

The job of people under Desk 2 is to transfer money as and when they’re told, keep opening new accounts under fake identities and discard old bank accounts to avoid money trail.

The head of Desk 3 deals with a person maintaining SIM boxes and parallel phone exchanges. This is where money is generated from. Money generated from this desk is routed to spies and other members of the group through coordination between the other desk heads.

SIM box is an equipment that allows hundreds of GSM cards to be inserted and make calls at one go. These people generate money in two forms.

First, and the main source of income, is to make money by allowing people to make international calls, which may cost up to Rs 15/minute, for just Rs 1 to Rs 2/minute by routing calls through internet.

This is done by routing international calls via VoIP gateways through these parallel exchanges. International calls are converted into local cellphone calls through these SIM boxes fitted with hundreds of GSM SIM cards procured with the help of fake ID proofs.

An officer claimed that they had found over six dozen such SIM boxes in various parts of Madhya Pradesh alone.

“Each SIM box has hundreds of SIM cards, works 24 hours to make 40-50 international calls illegally through VoIP. Now assume that the average cost of a genuine international call would have been Rs 12. Our estimate is that these groups have been active for last one-and-a-half to two years. Now calculate for yourself,” the officer said.

In the last one year alone, the officer claims telecom companies have lost around Rs 500 crore worth of revenue and the overall national loss to telecom companies is estimated to be at least 40 times the state's figure. Hence, the figure of Rs 30,000 crore.

72 Sim Boxes x 100 SIM cards (on average) x 12 (average cost of international call) x 4 (average minutes spent on an international call) x 365 (days in a year) = Rs 500 crore (in MP)

Rs 500 crore x 40 (national estimate) x 1.5 (years since when this fraud has been happening) = Rs 30,000 crore (in last 1.5 years)

“We haven’t told the telecom companies about it. But I can imagine their reaction. And it’s not just the telecom companies that have incurred losses. According to our information, about 20% of their revenue goes to the government, so the exchequer is losing out on Rs 4,000 crore every year because of these modules.”

The other mode of making money was to trap general public with fraud schemes by using these illegal phone exchanges as call centres.

“For instance, a person might call you pretending to be from Customs, asking you to submit $2,000 in their bank account so that they can allow a very expensive item to pass through. People eventually fall for this trap and unwittingly help fund terror network in the country.”

The officer added that the group made additional lakhs every month through these fraud schemes.

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| Edited by: Mirza Arif Beg
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