Pune: In a major swoop, illegal telephone exchanges routing calls via a computer network, suspected to have been used allegedly by Pakistani intelligence agency (ISI) to access sensitive military information, have been busted in Latur district.
After getting a tip-off from the Army’s Military Intelligence (MI) unit in Jammu and Kashmir, a joint team of the Department of Telecommunications (Prosecution branch) (DOT), Latur district police and Aurangabad unit of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) raided two houses on Friday night and busted the illegal exchanges. The accused used to pass on international calls as local calls through an app.
The police said that the exchanges were operating for the last 5-6 months. After camping in Latur for two days, the team raided premises of Ravi Rajkumar Sabde (27) at ‘Shivguru Kunj’ near Rajiv Gandhi Chowk on Ausa road, and Shankar Biradar (33) who operated from his house ‘Matruchhaya’ in Prakashnagar locality of Latur town. Both of them have been arrested and remanded in police custody till June 22 on Saturday. After the raids, over 175 sim cards, computers, modems, other equipment, totally worth Rs 4.6 lakhs were seized. Sabde works as sim card distributor, the police said.
They had also raided accused’s premises in Janwal (in Chakur taluka) and Walandi (in Deoni taluka) of Latur district.
Dr Kakasaheb Dole, Latur additional SP, said, “The joint team has busted two illegal telephone exchanges which were operating for the last about six months. According to Telecommunication Department officials, these illegal exchanges have caused a revenue loss of Rs 15 crore to the country. Further investigations are on through different agencies.”
Offences have been registered at Shivaji Nagar and MIDC police station in Latur town under relevant sections of the Indian Telegraph Act, Indian Wireless and Telegraph Act and Indian Penal Code.
How do they operate?
According to the police, they were making use of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), a technology that allows a person to make voice calls using an Internet connection, instead of a regular phone line. These type of illegal VoIP exchanges were used by Pakistan intelligence agencies to acquire sensitive military information. The accused used to receive an overseas call over the Internet and transfer that voice call to receivers in India through an illegal international gateway.
The system interconnected Internet/VoIP and mobile connections which is not permitted as per India’s telecom laws. They had also got an app which masked the international calls as local so that no telecom company could trace the source of the call.