Thursday, January 06, 2011

Nepal - Police have cracked down on "bypass" operators offering cheap calls to foreign operators

[Republica] The Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of the Nepal Police has made a big breakthrough in busting call bypass racketeers operating in the capital. In a major success, police on Monday busted yet another racket and arrested four of its members, including three Bangladeshi nationals. The scale of operations of this racket is believed to be huge, as indicated by the number of SIM cards confiscated by the police and the number of locations it was operating from inside Kathmandu Valley. Police seized around 500 Nepal Telecom SIM cards and 2,500 Ncell SIM cards during raids in three different locations-- Lazimpat, Tusal and Jorpati, where the racketeers had installed their call bypassing devices.

At least two things about this racket have drawn our attention. First is the scale on which calls were being bypassed and the involvement of Bangladeshi nationals. Preliminary estimates suggest that Nepal Telecom and Ncell, the two major mobile phone operators in the country, have been bled over a billion rupees in revenue because of the bypassing of international calls. This is an enormous loss to the telecom operators but it is also a huge loss to state coffers since the state is deprived of legitimate tax and service charges.

The involvement of the Bangladeshi nationals shows both the vulnerability of our telecom operators and also the weakness of the Nepali state. The Bangladeshis came to Nepal, imported and installed the call bypassing equipment, and were causing such a colossal loss to telecom operators and the state for so long and yet the authorities remained helpless for such a long time. It was common knowledge that international calls were being bypassed as local phone numbers kept appearing in mobile sets even while receiving international calls. The immigration department and intelligence agencies should have become more alert when so many Bangladeshis were found residing in the country under tourist visas for a prolonged period.

Now that the police have busted a major racket and arrested more than nine Bangladeshis, their investigations should be taken to a logical conclusion. The police officials themselves have said that the arrested Bangladeshis could be just accomplices and employees and not the masterminds behind this illegal operation. The challenge for the police now, and also their duty, is to find the real people behind the racket and bring them to book. There are rumors and allegations in the media that Rubel Choudhury, son-in-law of Deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala, has a hand behind some of the operations run by Bangladeshis. We don´t want to point any finger but we strongly demand that the police investigate any possible involvement on his part and bring the truth before the public.

Call bypass racket

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