5 expats arrested in crackdown against Internet calls

Updated 13 June 2013
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5 expats arrested in crackdown against Internet calls

The Saudi government, local telecommunications companies and the country’s regulatory authority have started cracking down on expatriates using software to make unauthorized cheap calls home on the Internet.
The Jeddah police recently arrested five Indians in a house for selling expatriates Internet telephone cards.
This comes just over a week after the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) banned the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) firm Viber in the country. Reports stated that the ban was because the three telecom operators — STC, Zain and Mobily — were losing millions in revenue.
The CITC has also stated that it may take action against other Internet companies offering free or cheap voice, text and audio messaging on the Internet, including Skype and Tango.
The telecom providers and Internet service providers are believed to be using VoIP blocking software to protect their revenues by preventing Internet-based VoIP traffic from running on their networks.
There are no specific regulations over the use of VoIP software in Saudi Arabia and this gray area has led to confusion. According to the VoIP regulatory framework, set by the CITC, all telecom operators can offer Internet telephony services in Saudi Arabia, but none of them does so.
However, the regulations state that it is forbidden to use unauthorized methods to make phone calls. Saudi Arabia is one of two countries in the Gulf region that have tolerated a VoIP culture, while other countries have dealt severely with offenders.
The majority of expatriates from India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, use the Internet to talk to their families and friends back home using the software on their smart phones or computers. Many are not even aware that it is illegal. They have almost abandoned calling through the local telecom operators.
Because of the cheap and illegal VoIP calls to Asian countries, Saudi telecom companies often offer special discounts, sometimes reducing overseas calls by 50 percent, at 55 halalas a minute, to most of these countries.
In recent times, the authorities have started cracking down on VoIP systems, closing down Internet cafes and targeting individuals offering these services.
A popular call application that dominated the Saudi market for nearly a decade, which can still be easily installed on any mobile device with an advanced operating system, was blocked by local authorities.
Two other popular applications, one using data SIM cards and the other operating on computers and wireless systems, have also been blocked.
Arab News has learned that the authorities are monitoring all markets where these Internet calling cards are sold, resulting in prices doubling. A 700-minute calling card used to be sold for SR 35. A 350-minute card now sells for SR 60.
Saudi police have arrested five Indians Sulaiman Kardan, Naushad Kardan, Jalil Kardan, Shakeer Noramochi and Ashraf Noramochi, who were running a VoIP calling business in Jeddah. After monitoring them for some time, the police raided their house in Azizia district in Jeddah in the early morning hours and arrested them. The police seized cards valued at SR 23,000, according to sources close to the arrested persons.
Jeddah police spokesperson Lt. Nawaf Al-Bouq said the police raids are being carried out with the aid of the CITC.
The CITC's spokesperson Sultan Al-Malik said that Asian countries have also cracked down on overseas incoming VoIP calls because these calls are evading mandatory landing tax. Telecom operators such as STC, Mobily and Zain all pay mandatory landing tax to telecom authorities in Asian countries whereas VoIP operators do not pay any such tax.
In India, both leading private telecom operators are not allowing any VoIP calls on their networks, in contrast to the country’s public sector telecoms provider, BSNL, and other private operators.
India's intelligence agencies are opposing the mushrooming VoIP incoming calls from Middle East countries.


Pakistan’s telecom authorities and federal law enforcement agencies have effectively curbed the practice of VoIP calls and arrested several people in this regard.
Bangladesh has banned the practice. The Bangladesh telecoms authority's international revenue has surged by more than 80 percent from the increasing landing tax on international incoming calls. Nepal has also cracked down on this practice.


Makkah Route: Health services presented to Hajjis in their home countries

Updated 21 July 2019
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Makkah Route: Health services presented to Hajjis in their home countries

  • 257,981 pilgrims benefited from the "preventive services" since the new initiative’s launch

RIYADH: One of the services provided by the Makkah Route initiative, which aims to smooth the Hajj journey of pilgrims and provide top-quality service, is to ensure that all health requirements are met.

The Communication, Relations and Health Awareness General Department of the Ministry of Health is implementing the initiative in two ways. 

The first is to ensure that the proper application of the health requirements for Hajj and Umrah is followed in targeted countries before issuing the Kingdom’s entry visa (Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Tunisia). 

The second is to check that preventive measures are taken according to the world’s epidemiological situation, for instance in Pakistan.

“Preventive measures” mean, for example, providing polio vaccines for pilgrims. The vaccine, approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), is provided through the Pakistani health authorities at the departure area of the airport.

“The ministry is also deploying a team of five people qualified to supervise the application of health requirements and assess the vaccination procedure and the application of preventive measures,” the department added.   


HIGHLIGHTS

The Makkah Route initiative aims to ensure that the proper application of the health requirements for Hajj and Umrah is followed in targeted countries before issuing the Kingdom’s entry visa.

The initiative also ensures that preventive measures are taken according to the world’s epidemiological situation, for instance in Pakistan.

The workforce at the different land, air, and sea entry/exit points during this year’s Hajj season numbers more than 1,700 individuals.

The teams include 131 experienced doctors, general health specialists, epidemiological monitors, and other staff to provide the necessary treatment and preventive services to pilgrims.


The ministry’s procedures in the departure hall include prepping emergency clinics at the points where Makkah Route pilgrims are received. 

These clinics deal with urgent cases, prepare awareness information for pilgrims and coordinate with the General Authority of Civil Aviation regarding their distribution on the targeted airlines.

The workforce at the different land, air, and sea entry/exit points during this year’s Hajj season numbers more than 1,700 individuals, including 131 experienced doctors, general health specialists, epidemiological monitors, and other staff to provide the necessary treatment and preventive services to pilgrims.

The ministry stated that the number of health practitioners assigned to the service of pilgrims during Hajj “is more than 30,000.”

The ministry encourages volunteering during the Hajj season; it believes that it is a very important and noble service toward fellow citizens, nations and the religion, where Islam highly encourages volunteering and serving others.

The ministry is coordinating the major institutions and commissions via its Hajj volunteering link to register volunteers so that they can participate through the societal partnership program.

The missions affiliated with the pilgrim’s affairs offices provide basic treatment services and refer patients to the ministry’s health facilities, keeping an eye on the overall health situation and reporting any suspicious infectious diseases. 

The ministry monitors all the health institutions and medical missions affiliated with the pilgrim’s affairs offices to make sure the health requirements are being properly applied, to ensure pilgrims’ safety and guarantee an environment free of infectious diseases.

The Health Ministry has confirmed that so far that there has been no incidence of any epidemic diseases or quarantine cases recorded among pilgrims, who arrived and the health situation is reassuring.

Since the first of Dul Qaada, the ministry has provided preventive services, via access points, to 257,981 pilgrims, with a total rate of commitment to vaccination reached  87.4 percent for meningitis, 67.3 percent for yellow fever and 95.3 percent for polio.