Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bangladesh: Billions evaded by Voip racket

Billions evaded by Voip racket
M Nuruzzaman

Telecommunication Regulatory Commission [BTRC] fined private land phone operator RanksTel TK 140 million for carrying out VoIP business illegally while it is yet to determine the amount of fine to be recovered from Western Network, which is owned by Helal Khan, a notorious leader of BNP’s cultural wing, who is considered to be the ring leader of illegal Voip network in Bangladesh. It may be mentioned here that, Rapid Action Battalion [RAB] recovered huge quantity of Voip equipment, calling cards etc from one of the outlets of Helal Khan in Dhaka on December 26 last year. Subsequently a criminal case was lodged with the Ramna Police Station on the same day. According to telecommunication experts, Khan evaded more than a few hundred million Takas by operating several illegal Voip call centers in Dhaka and other parts of the country.
Helal Khan, taking the advantage of BNP being in power, initiated Voip business in Bangladesh with the direct patronization of Harris Chowdhury, former political secretary to the Prime Minister Khaleda Zia in 2001. It is also alleged that, Harris was in fact one of the partners in Helal Khan’s illegal Voip business. It is also learnt that another front ranking leader of the cultural front of BNP, Babul Ahmed is another business partner of Helal in this illegal business. Babul Ahmed went into hiding as his name came in a number of serious corruptions, including making huge amount of money by monopolizing the supply of programs to state owned Bangladesh Television. Babul Ahmed’s name also came for trafficking people to various western countries in the name of cultural delegation.
Earlier the Bangladesh telecommunication Regulatory Commission [BTRC] fined two more cell phone companies in the country for operating illegal Voip exchanges. Talking to Weekly Blitz, one of the senior officials of BTRC said, it is now actively working to determine the amount of fine to be collected from Helal Khan’s Western Network.
“Helal Khan’s company has evaded more than 3 billion Taka during 2001-2006 periods. So, even if we decide to take a part of the entire amount, it should be something around a few hundred million Taka”, the official said.
The BTRC official said, it is already clear to them that Helal Khan is the ring leader of the Voip racket in the country. Now it is time for the government to determine a very serious action against this man.
A RanksTel senior official said that the land phone operator having licenses for four zones out of five across the country have already deposited the penalty money in order to clear it of charges.
Earlier, the Rapid Action Battalion raided the head office of RanksTel at Bijoy Sarani and confiscated its VoIP equipment. The battalion also filed a case against the company under Bangladesh Telecommunications Act 2001.
Voice over Internet Protocol business has been illegal in Bangladesh till now despite the cabinet of Khaleda Zia approved the legalization of the internet telephony in November 2003.
The interim government on July 14 approved the International Long Distance Telecommunications Services Policy 2007 which recommended that locally owned telecoms firms should be given preference for licenses to provide overseas calls through VoIP.
During the tenure of the past government, the number of illegal VoIP operators mushroomed and they earned more than TK 30 billion in five years, according to an unofficial estimate. The state-owned BTTB, which is solely responsible for overseas calls, incurred loss of about TK 6 billion a year in revenue.
According to the telecoms policy 1998, the telephone board is the sole provider of international calls to and from Bangladesh and other operators must carry their overseas calls through the international gateway of the telephone board.
The Rapid Action Battalion continued to raid on illegal VoIP centers. The elite force in its latest raid on Saturday seized VoIP equipment from landline operator Bay Phones in Chittagong.
RAB launched the drive in December last year and busted a dozen centers so far.
Posted on 26 Jul 2007 by Root


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