KOZHIKODE: Intelligence agencies have sounded an alert as suspected ISI-backed rackets are behind thriving illegal telephone exchanges in Kerala, enabling cross-border agents to communicate and generate money for their handlers in the country without coming under surveillance.Though the Kerala Police busted such an illegal SIM box telephone exchange in Kozhikode in November 2017, they could not so far trace the main accused who is holed up somewhere in West Asia.
Kerala has become a soft spot for these rackets as there is a huge demand for this cheap Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls from Malayalees in Gulf countries and it’s really hard to track the functioning of such exchanges. As per data with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), eight illegal telephone exchanges were busted in Kerala between March 2015 and December 2017.
Thiruvananthapuram Range Inspector Manoj Abraham, who is also the nodal officer of the Kerala Police Cyberdome, confirmed it was not that easy to track the illegal VoIP exchanges though they operate in cyber highways. Central agencies have been wary of the rising illegal telephone exchanges in Kerala as investigation into a similar case in Madhya Pradesh recently revealed Pakistani spy agency’s active role.
“Ground-level intelligence inputs is the only way to trace the rackets,” said the officers, who added field units of Department of Telecom are also on the watch out for suspected grey calls as per the records provided by the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) to unearth the illegal exchanges.
Intelligence officers said these VoIP telephone exchanges using SIM boxes were the main route for the spy racket to generate money for their activities in the country.“These rackets make money by allowing people to make international calls for just `1 to `2 minute by routing calls through internet while the actual ISD call may cost up to `15 per minute. The money raised through this illegal activity is used for espionage and terrorist activities in the country,” said a senior officer with the state’s internal security wing.