Suspicious calls to the Indian Army’s helpline numbers in West Bengal have led to the arrest of two men from Bengaluru’s BTM Layout area. Officials suspect that the illegal telephone exchange was being used to route calls from operatives of terror outfits.

The matter first came to light when officials flagged suspicious calls to the Army’s helpline number in Siliguri and other installations. Sources said the callers made repeated attempts to inquire about the location and movement of Army contingents in the state of West Bengal.

A preliminary probe into the matter by Military Intelligence (Southern Command) revealed that the calls were being routed from Bengaluru in Karnataka. In a joint operation, the Military Intelligence and Bengaluru Police Crime Branch (ATC) zeroed in on the suspects – Ibrahim and Gowtham.

ATC officials have registered a case with the Bengaluru City cyber crime police station. Further investigation into the matter is underway and more arrests are likely.

Ibrahim Mullatti Bin Mohammed Kutty (36) hails from Mallapur in Kerala and Gowtham Bin Viswanathan (27) is originally from Tamil Nadu’s Tirupur district.

The duo, said officials, were running an illegal telephone exchange using the SIM box technology.

What is SIM box technology

A SIM box can be used to route international phone calls as local calls. Each SIM box is fitted with hundreds of GSM SIM cards. This technology allows the box’s operator to not only bypass international rates charged by local mobile network operators but also poses a risk to national security.

For example, if a call from Pakistan is routed using a SIM box, the number will appear as that of a caller from India.

A total of 32 SIM boxes were recovered from six locations in Bengaluru’s BTM Layout area during the raid on the illegal telephone exchange being run by the duo. As many as 960 fraudulently procured SIM cards were being used to power these SIM boxes.

To put things in perspective, a single SIM box can be used to route thousands of dubious international calls each day.

In December of last year, a similar illegal telephone exchange was busted in Kolkata in a joint operation by the Kolkata Police and Military Intelligence Unit.

Another SIM box exchange was busted in Govandi in Mumbai’s Eastern suburbs in May of last year. The bust was the result of an investigation carried out by Jammu and Kashmir Military Intelligence.