Srinagar- State Investigation Agency (SIA) on Tuesday booked a SIM card vendor in the Kupwara district of North Kashmir.
“In the face of ever-increasing misuse of SIM cards by (militants), their OGW associates, narcotics smugglers, and other criminals, SIA of J&K Police, today conducted searches at two locations in Kupwara district in connection with case FIR No. 14/2022 U/s 13 UA(P) Act, 120-B, 420,468,471 IPC of Police Station SIA/CIK, Srinagar,” SIA said in a statement issued here.
“The two premises belonged to Javid Ahmad Bhat son of Ali Mohammad Bhat of Mohalla Gunwari Gugloosa, Kupwara, who is the proprietor of “Bhat Telecom” who sold these SIM cards in violation of department of Telecom regulations and in a manner that amounts to forgery and cheating.”
The basic allegation that has triggered the criminal investigation, SIA said, is that the proprietor of “Bhat Telecom” as a part of a criminal conspiracy hatched with OGWs, sympathizers of (militant) organizations, and narcotic smugglers are involved in preparing and selling of SIM cards of various telecom companies by using fraudulent and dishonest methods.
“Prima facie evidence has become available to show that forging of records has taken place wherein photos of a single person has been used to prepare multiple SIM cards with different names and identities,” SIA said, adding, “It is being investigated if this is the only method or other ways and means have been adopted for forging required documents for obtaining SIM cards.”
The investigation has been initiated to find out who all has used these “fraudulently” prepared Sim cards and how many of them have been used by militants, their associates, drug smugglers, arms and ammunition smugglers, and also those who have been dealing with terror funding especially dumping the proceeds of the sale of narcotics in different bank accounts.
During searches conducted today, SIA said, “incriminating materials such as digital devices, SIM cards, SD cards, compact disks, bank transaction slips, and documents having a bearing on the investigation have been recovered and seized.”
CID is also coordinating similar investigations by various police stations across J&K pertaining to as many as 14000 SIM cards that have been fraudulently issued by stealing identities and forging records, SIA. “Out of about 28 thousand SIM card vendors, more than a thousand vendors are under scanner for issuing these fraud SIM cards to fictitious persons,” SIA said, adding, “While the SIM cards have been deactivated, their subscribers on papers are being identified on the basis of available truncated particulars.”
They would be questioned to reach the actual users, revealed sources within SIA. “Technology and call records would also be used to pinpoint the actual users. Competent courts of law are being approached with prayers to summon records that would facilitate in finding out if a SIM card was ever used by a listed terrorist or a known OGW or a drug smuggler or inside a jail. Those SIM card sellers and subscribers who would voluntarily cooperate would be entitled to benefits available under law.
PoS vendors selling SIM cards, SIA said, have no option but to tighten their belts and cannot escape liability especially when it’s proved that the SIM card they have prepared against forged documents has been used by militants and cross-border criminals. Similarly, SIA said, subscribers would also come under the legal liability of aiding and abetting crime especially if their cards have been used inside jails or used to communicate to militant handlers sitting across in Pakistan.
“CID Is also planning to request the Department of telecommunication to extend the facility (TAFCOP) to J&K that has been made available by DoT to many states wherein a subscriber can check online through a special portal if SIM cards are being used by unknown persons against his name and without his knowledge.”