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Pak handlers may have used MP spy racket to plan 2016 Pathankot and Uri attacks

india Updated: Feb 13, 2017 07:15 IST
Anuraag Singh

NIA sleuths presenting a terror suspect before a court in Patna.(HT File Photo)

An ongoing investigation into the recently busted Chinese SIM box-enabled international call racket, which was allegedly aiding espionage by Pakistan handlers in India, has thrown up a shocker.

It has been found that over 60 parallel phone exchanges, similar to the 36-odd operations that have been busted by the Madhya Pradesh police anti-terrorism squad (ATS) in four towns of the state, could be functional in other parts of the country. A similar racket was busted by the Uttar Pradesh ATS last month.

Sources privy to the investigation told HT that most of these 60-plus exchanges are being run in Hyderabad, Odisha, Bihar, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Data pertaining to these illegal operations has been shared with central intelligence agencies by the MP police.

Each illegal exchange of the kind fetches a monthly income of Rs 25,000-Rs 30,000 for those operating them from undisclosed locations in the country. Investigators have identified at least five Dubai and China-based web platforms, including Dinstar, which help these illegal operators route international calls via VoIP gateways. They are then converted into local cellphone calls through Chinese SIM boxes fitted with hundreds of GSM SIM cards procured with the help of fake ID proofs.

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Three dozen exchanges were busted by the MP ATS across Bhopal, Jabalpur, Satna and Gwalior, and 11 men arrested in this connection.

An interrogation of the arrested men has revealed that the Chinese equipment, including the SIM box, was sourced from a man residing at a state capital in the vicinity of New Delhi. People who operate these illegal exchanges – making the cellular service industry bleed in the process – have been using five web platforms for their operations.

Police said each of these web platforms first gave unique IDs and passwords to the operators. Subsequently, these men would receive international calls from specified VoIP gateways on a round-the-clock basis – masking the caller’s identity before converting the call through the hundreds of GSM SIM cards obtained with fake IDs. “The SIM box acted as a terminal to convert VoIP calls into local calls using the GSM gateways of SIM cards without disclosing the identity of the callers – most of whom are based in Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Middle East,” said an inside source.

Detailed records of the daily income generated by these exchange operators were also stored in unique accounts with the five web platforms. Subsequently, payments were made to them through money-laundering rackets operated by Pakistani handlers. If these men faced any issue with regard to payment, the matter would be easily resolved via Skype.

Balram, a resident of Satna, was found to be funding espionage operations by Satwindar and Dadu – two ISI operatives arrested in RS Pura area in November last year. He was among the 11 men arrested by the state ATS on Thursday.

Of the arrested men, five suspects hailing from Gwalior were produced before a special court in Bhopal on Sunday and remanded in judicial custody. One of them was identified as Jitendra, a close relative of a BJP councillor in Gwalior.

The state ATS is also probing the possibility of 30 phone exchanges, which have been in operation for the last three years, being used by Pakistani handlers to plan the Uri and Pathankot terror attacks.