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Gang using NGO to sell SIMs to criminals busted in Karachi


Rizwan Shehzad |

The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Sindh police arrested on Tuesday seven suspects on charges of illegally providing activated mobile phone SIMs to criminals after obtaining Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs) and thumb impressions by filling forms of a non-governmental organization.

The police have arrested seven men, Muhammad Rizwan Ahmed, Irfan Aashiq, Kashif Javed, Anjum Zahoor, Muzamil Tabassum, Waqas Ahmed and Muhammad Rehan, and seized laptops, mobile phones, mobile phone companies’ scanners, bank scanners, biometric machines, copies of the CNICs, a large quantity of SIMs of various mobile phone companies, forms of the NGO, fingerprints obtained on silicon as well as blank silicon strips, a computer scanner, and a light box for fingerprints from their possession.

Khattab said that the investigation had revealed that mobile phone companies, franchises, and others affiliated with the “business” had allegedly been involved in selling illegal SIMs for huge monetary benefits and vested interests.

Three of their accomplices identified as Humair Afzal, Kamran alias Mana, and Gusan fled the crime scene when the Civil Lines CTD officials conducted a raid in line with intelligence reports to bust the gang. The police said that the suspects and their accomplices used to sell mobile phone SIMs to criminals in various cities after activating the same through their agents working for the NGO, “Pakistan Disable Development Council”.

The CTD’s officer-in-charge Transnational Terrorism Intelligence Group (TTIG), Raja Umar Khattab, said that seven members of the gang accused of providing mobile phone SIMs to militants and criminals involved in terrorism, murder, kidnapping for ransom, extortion and grey trafficking were apprehended. Khattab said that the investigation had revealed that mobile phone companies, franchises, and others affiliated with the “business” had allegedly been involved in selling illegal SIMs for huge monetary benefits and vested interests.

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He said that the business of providing illegal SIMs had spread across the country, adding that those involved were allegedly misusing the services provided to them by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA).

Moreover, Khattab while explaining the modus operandi of the gang said that the agents working in the garb of NGO officials used to obtain CNICs and thumb impressions of common people on a form that would later be transferred into a computer through a scanner. Subsequently, he said, the suspects, their accomplices and computer experts would use a photo-editing software, Adobe Photoshop, for making the thumb impressions more visible and then shift it on tracing paper.

Next, he said, they would prepare stamps of the thumb impression and use the same for biometric verification. Lastly, he added, the suspects used to sell the activated mobile phone SIMs to criminals and police would end up detaining common people for investigation purposes over their alleged involvement in terrorism, murder, kidnapping for ransom, extortion and grey trafficking cases.

The press release added that the government had made biometric verification of mobile phone SIMs mandatory in 2008 since in the past anyone could have used a SIM card for a criminal activity without being traced.

Because of the illegal SIMs, Khattab said, police faced difficulties in arresting the actual criminals and this led to increased crime ratio in the country. He revealed that the CNICs and thumb impressions were also used to open online bank accounts, adding the franchises and agents used to get a commission for the activity.

The CTD press release revealed that total six laptops, 1,000 fingerprints obtained on silicon papers, 12 scanners of mobile phone companies, three scanner of Habib Bank Limited, three biometric machines, 2,600 copies of the CNICs, 400 forms of the NGO, two blank silicon strips, 1,300 non-activated and jackets of 2,800 activated SIMs of Telenor, 400 non-activated and jackets of 200 activated SIMs of Ufone, 100 non-activated SIMs of Zong, a computer scanner, a light box for fingerprints and eight tracing papers with fingerprints were seized from suspects’ possession during the raid.

The press release added that the government had made biometric verification of mobile phone SIMs mandatory in 2008 since in the past anyone could have used a SIM card for a criminal activity without being traced. During the investigation of terrorism-related cases, it added, it emerged that criminals used SIMs registered in the names of individuals unaware of the practice, who on occasions went through unwarranted and painful investigations.

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Resultantly, the PR said, innocent people have seriously suffered while going through the investigation process.

Rizwan Shehzad