A horrifying syndicate dealing in illegal VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is now active in the country. Thus, due to their illegal activities, the government is losing more than Tk 4,500 crore in revenue every year.
The syndicate is also siphoning off money to different countries, including the UK, Singapore, the UAE and Malaysia through hundi and over-and-under-invoicing.
Law enforcing members and telecommunications regulatory authority BTRC have arrested some of the ringleaders, but the masterminds remain out of reach.
Regarding the loss of government revenue due to illegal VoIP traders, the responsible officials of BTRC said that the daily revenue loss of the government due to illegal VoIP is at least Tk 12.5 crore. The amount is Tk 365 crore per month, which is more than 4 thousand and 562 crore annually.
International calls from mobile phone operators have dropped alarmingly due to the unlawful VoIP business.
The BTRC cannot take any action against the VoIP traders, including the Sharun-Sahab syndicate, as they are sheltered by the influential people of the government; although BTRC is well equipped with all modern equipement to detect illegal VoIP.
If they could work independently, it would be possible to stop illegal VoIP business and increase government revenue.
As per the rules, the government will get revenue of 3 cents per minute for incoming ISD calls.
According to various sources, including the International Gateway Service Provider, the country receives more than 100 million minutes of foreign calls daily. About 60 million minutes of it is coming through illegal VoIP. As a result, about Tk 20 crore worth foreign calls are being stolen daily through it. If this was stopped, the government would get additional revenue of Tk 12.5 crore daily and Tk 4,562.50 crore annually.
Documents and inquiries from various telecommunications departments show that state-owned mobile operator Teletalk is at the top of the unauthorised VoIP business. Teletalk accounts for about 85 per cent of the SIMs seized in various raids.
Sources from the telecommunications ministry claimed that Jatiya Sangsad Whip Shamsul Haque Chowdhury’s son Nazmul Karim alias Sharun Chowdhury is controlling the syndicate with the connivance of some high-ranking officials of the organisation.
By opening an office in the capital’s Gulshan, he is controlling a large part of the country’s VoIP business. One of his associates in this business is the managing director (MD) Sahab Uddin of Teletalk. Teletalk executives have been fired and even faced torture for leaving the Sharun-Sahab syndicate.
After an intensive investigation over the issue, it is known that Sharun-Sahab’s syndicate turned the government institution into a safe haven for illegal VoIP business through tender business and using Teletalk’s towers and SIMs.
They also shut down various profitable services of Teletalk. For example, Teletalk had a digital app called ‘TelePay’. Rural power company’s electricity bills were collected through this app. The government was earning a huge amount of revenue through this service.
But on June 15, the app was closed without any prior notice. Teletalk MD Sahab Uddin, GM Prabhas Chandra of Marketing Department and GM Nurul Mabud of IT Department are allegedly behind it. All of them are members of the Sharon Syndicate.
Asked about the allegations, Sahab Uddin said, “The app has been shut down due to technical reason. It will be launched again soon.” When asked about his being OSD due to corruption, he said, “I have been OSD for seven months. However, it cannot be called OSD; I was attached to the MD’s office.”
“I do not know Sharon,” he added, referring to the control of the VoIP business by syndicating with Whip’s son Sharon.