Saturday, 27 February, 2021

Illegal VOIP business declines significantly


By Nayak Paudel
Kathmandu, Aug. 30: On July 27, the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) arrested Hari Shankar Shrestha, 33, for his involvement in illegal call bypass from Ward 22 of Kathmandu Metropolitan City.
When a team from the CIB raided a building over a tip-off regarding Shrestha’s involvement in illegal Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), he was arrested along with an eight-port openvox gateway device and eight Ncell SIM cards.
After the arrest of Shrestha, the CIB has been curbing illegal call bypass business for the past weeks as the government faces a huge revenue loss from it.
Illegal call bypass is a system where international calls are diverted from the official gateway of the telecommunication companies and are landed to the destination number through different gateways. With the bypassing of the calls, the telecommunication companies are deprived of the tariffs, thereby, leading to revenue loss for the government.
The data of CIB shows that a total of 170 individuals, 132 Nepalis and 38 foreigners, have been arrested from 112 different places on charges of illegal VOIP business till date.
A business feared to have been operated mostly by the foreigners now sees more involvement of Nepalis over the years, said the CIB officials.
“In the beginning years, foreign nationals from India and Bangladesh were found to be bypassing international calls illegally in Nepal. Now, more Nepalis are found involved in the illegal business,” said Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIGP) Sahakul Bahadur Thapa, who is also the director at the CIB.
According to the CIB, they have confiscated nearly 24,000 SIM cards from the arrested individuals and have filed cases against them at the respective courts with a demand of over Rs. 12 billion in compensation.
Along with the illegal call bypass, the CIB has also arrested individuals involved in SMS bypass. On March 18, the CIB had arrested 35-year-old Prashant Sah, an Indian national, for his involvement in SMS SIM Box Fraud (SMS bypass).
Police seized two advanced 64-port GoIP gateway device, two adapters, 30 SIM cards of Nepal Telecom and 185 SIM cards of Ncell from a rented room of Shah in Ward 25 of Kathmandu Metropolitan City.With criminals using advanced technologies for call and SMS bypass, the CIB lacks enough tracking system to arrest the individuals. Yet, the CIB has arrested many involved in the illegal business over the years.
“The telecommunication companies can notice bypassed calls and SMS. If they come across any, the companies inform us about the incidents after which we advance the investigation and arrest the involved persons,” said Thapa. As the CIB has been arresting the ones involved, officials say that the incidents of illegal call bypass have started declining compared to the past years.
“Some telecommunication companies provide cheaper rates for international calls nowadays due to which the customers of the illegal service have decreased over the years. Likewise, the efforts of the law enforcement agencies have played a big part,” said Purushottam Khanal, chairman at Nepal Telecommunication Authority.
According to Khanal, mitigating illegal call bypass practice totally is a difficult task, however, several steps can decrease the incidents leading to less loss of revenue. 

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