An official of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has been made an officer on special duty (OSD) for allegedly protecting grey operators of voice traffic, according to sources in the interior ministry.
Deputy Director Cyber Crime FIA Punjab, Sajid Akram Chaudhry supervises the National Response Centre (NRC) which is responsible for arresting grey operators of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) exchanges.
Since VoIP involves sending voice information in digital form, traffic is not routed through public telephone networks.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who chaired a meeting in May this year to control grey traffic, constituted a three-member team to investigate the allegations. All 25 raids carried out by the NRC from October 2010 to March 2011 on Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s (PTA) request were foiled by him, according to documents available with The Express Tribune.
Whenever a raid is planned, Chaudhry forewarns operators who clear out with their equipment. In case, one of the owners is arrested and agrees to broker a deal, he either refrains from initiating an inquiry or declares him innocent, sources in the FIA told The Express Tribune.
Chaudhry has allegedly received more than Rs10 million from grey operators of VOIP exchanges since his reinstatement. Most illegal operators give him a monthly stipend of millions of rupees in return for advance warnings in case of a raid, according to the allegations the FIA has forwarded to the interior ministry. He was earlier suspended for allegedly receiving Rs15 million from a human trafficker and a case registered against him is still pending with the National Accountability Bureau.
The deputy director, who was transferred to the FIA from the Public Works Department, has been suspended twice before on corruption charges.
Twenty-seven cases have been registered against operators who illegally terminate international voice traffic after by-passing gateway exchanges. According to FIA officials, the operators have collectively inflicted a loss of more than Rs400 million to the national exchequer. The FIA was able to trace the installments deposited in Chaudhry’s account by two operators, Rizwan Iqbal and Babar Jamal.
Chaudhry promised Hassan Dar, Arshad Butt and Saleem Butt to withdraw the cases against them in return for Rs5 million and guaranteed them protection in future. When the investigation officer, an inspector, refused to oblige, the inquiry was transferred to a sub-inspector in June, 2011, in violation of the rules spelt out in the Police Ordinance.
The sub-inspector declared the offenders innocent. Another request for a raid against Dar forwarded by PTA in February, also proved unsuccessful. Even though the rent agreement of the premises was made out in Dar’s name, Akram refused to initiate an inquiry against an operator who is already implicated in two previous cases.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2011.
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