After a month-long investigation, the police on Friday cracked down on a large-scale racket wherein prepaid SIM cards were being provided to customers without identity proofs or related documents. Hundreds of activated SIM cards have been recovered from the accused.
The crime branch arrested nine people, including a senior official of a prominent telecom company, who would allegedly obtain the SIM cards using photocopies of documents provided to them by genuine applicants, and then sell them at exorbitant rates.
Joint commissioner of police, crime, Himanshu Roy on Friday said that eight of the accused – Ravindra Gajanan Patil, 24, Sunil Batawala, 21, Ravindra Wagmode, 20, Digambar Kole, 34, Ravi Bhuje, 23, Sunny Barati, 27, Ganesh Shinde, 22, Azad Chote Singh, 22 – worked as salesmen for different service providers, while Aslam Islam Sheikh, 33, is the assistant territory manager for the company office at Kurla. The Unit 7 of the crime branch also recovered 379 activated SIM cards, from different network providers, along with more than 550 forged documents. The arrested accused have been charged with cheating and forgery.
Such SIM cards might be used by anti-social elements for criminal activities and may harm the national security, police said.
The group would take multiple photocopies of genuine customers’ application forms (with valid ID proofs such as address proof, photographs, passport or PAN card copies), who they had issued SIM cards. They would also scan their photographs. Using these photocopies, they would get multiple SIM cards issued from the companies they worked for. “With duplicated documents, hundreds of SIM cards were obtained in one genuine customers’ name,” Roy said.
They would sell these SIM cards to customers. “The group sold these at prices ranging between Rs 400 and Rs 1,000 – as against the market price of Rs25-Rs40,” said Roy.
Police are worried about the security implications of the racket, which shows the ease with which SIM cards can be obtained using fake identities. If police track any activity on these numbers, it would be traced to the customer who’s duplicate documents were used. “That person would have little clue that hundreds of cards were being issued in his name,” said Roy.
The Telephone Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been informed, so it can begin an inquiry. “It’s a national security concern,” said Roy.