Criminals misusing ICT, financing terror, say cops

KATHMANDU: The police have written to all the 22 Internet Service Provider (IPS) companies seeking details of their subscribers through the Nepal Telecommunication Authority, the regulating body of telecom service.

The move comes in the wake of intelligence reports that suggest that criminals may be financing terrorism of various forms, especially in the Kathmandu Valley.

SSP Rana Bahadur Chand, in-charge, Metropolitan Police Crime Division (MPCD), said they were awaiting the details of the internet service subscribers in a bid to combat the increasing level of threat to people through emails and through the illegal operation of the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

“Like in other countries, we have come to know that criminal gangs are misusing the Information and Communication Technology to make a killing and finance terrorism. An investigating into the case is underway,” Chand said. “We will

intensify the fight against such crimes once we have the details”.

The police led by the MPCD have already busted at least 10 underground VoIP rackets and recovered hi-tech equipments worth tens of million of rupees and more than 5,700 SIM cards of Nepal Telecom, UTL and the former Mero Mobile companies in the Valley. “As the saying goes, ‘ill gotten ill spent’, the VoIP racketeers are not only bleeding the national revenue but financing anti-social activities,” said Chand.

“There is a nexus between VoIP operators at home and abroad to bleed the national economy by blocking the telecom service provider’s gateway”.

The police have also raised serious concerns about the ‘no-number’ readings in incoming calls. “We have asked the telecom operators to do the needful to display numbers in ISD calls. It will help us know who the caller is in case somebody is issued a threat over telephone,” Chand said. The police are also investigating as to who helped the VoIP racketeers import hi-tech equipments from foreign countries. “Only telecom companies have been empowered to bring the equipments home. Therefore, we suspect that the companies may be working in collusion with the racketeers,” he added.

Surendra Prasad Thike, the spokesperson for Nepal Telecommunication, lamented that it was incurring a loss of billions of rupees due to illegal VoIPs. “Only four telecom companies — NT, Spice Nepal, UTL and STM Telecom Sanchar — are authorised to receive and send ISD calls. If other companies or groups are indulging in these activities, it is illegal and punishable by law,” he said.

According to the Telecommunications Act, 2053 BS, any person convicted of posing a threat to telecommunications systems will be liable to pay a fine equal to the principal amount of damage caused or face jail sentence of up to five years or both.

NT accounts for around 65 per cent of the telecom users in Nepal. “We are bearing a loss of 25 per cent of the total revenue, thanks to the illegal VoIPs. Telecom companies are cooperating with the police in tackling the crime,” he added.

Meanwhile, NT has appealed to its users to call 188 if any international call reads a local number in the caller ID. “We block the SIM cards of such numbers. We are also doing groundwork to tighten SIM distribution,” he said. However, he refused to admit that the VoIP was enticing crime.

Call by-passers make use of VoIP GSM Gateway to divert international calls from the official gateway. The call is transferred to the telecom subscribers through a GSM SIM card. The ISD then displays a personal caller ID on the receiver’s gadget.