SRINAGAR: In a major crackdown against misuse of SIM cards by terrorists, the State Investigation Agency (SIA) on Tuesday booked a SIM card vendor in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir even as over 1,000 vendors are under the scanner for fraudulently issuing such cards by stealing identities and forging records, an official said.
He said two premises belonging to Javid Ahmad Bhat, proprietor of Bhat Telecom’, were searched at Mohalla Gunwari in Gugloosa.
The basic allegation that triggered the investigation was that the proprietor of Bhat Telecom was part of a criminal conspiracy hatched with overground workers (OGW), sympathisers of terrorist organisations, and narcotic smugglers who are involved in preparing and selling of SIM cards of various telecom companies by using fraudulent and dishonest methods, he said.
The official said prima facie evidence showed that forging of records took place wherein photos of a single person were used to prepare multiple SIM cards with different names and identities.
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 official said.
He said investigation has been initiated to find out who all have used these fraudulently prepared SIM cards and how many of them have been used by terrorists, their associates, drug smugglers, arms and ammunition smugglers and also those who have been dealing with terror funding, especially dumping the proceeds of sale of narcotics in different bank accounts.
The official said incriminating material 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 during the searches.
He said the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is also coordinating similar investigations by various police stations across Jammu and Kashmir pertaining to as many as 14,000 SIM cards that have been fraudulently issued by stealing identities and forging records.
Out of about 28,000 SIM card vendors, over 1,000 vendors are under scanner for issuing these fraudulent SIM cards to fictitious persons, he said, adding while the SIM cards have been deactivated, their subscribers on papers are being identified on the basis of available truncated particulars.
They will be questioned to reach the actual users, the official said, adding that technology and call records will also be used to pinpoint the actual users.
He said competent courts of law are being approached with prayers to summon records that will 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 will voluntarily cooperate will be entitled to benefits available under law, the official said.
The official said PoS vendors selling SIM cards have no option, but to tighten their belts and cannot escape liability especially when it is proved that the SIM card they have prepared against forged documents has been used by terrorists and cross border criminals.
Similarly, subscribers also will come under legal liability of aiding and abetting crime, especially if their cards have been used inside jails or used to communicate to terrorist handlers sitting across in Pakistan, a senior SIA investigator said.
He said the CID is planning to request the department of telecommunication to extend the TAFCOP facility to J&K that has been made available 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. PTI