5 expats arrested in crackdown against Internet calls

Updated 13 June 2013

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.


Houthis, Iran condemned over new drone attacks on KSA

Updated 26 October 2020

Houthis, Iran condemned over new drone attacks on KSA

  • One civilian injured by shrapnel after Saudi-led coalition intercepts four flying bombs launched from Yemen

JEDDAH: Houthi militias and their Iranian backers were condemned on Sunday after the Saudi-led coalition intercepted four explosive-laden drones in two attacks launched from Yemen targeting the south of the Kingdom.

Three of the drones were destroyed early on Saturday and a fourth on Sunday. Shrapnel that fell in Sarat Abidah governorate injured a civilian, and damaged five homes and three vehicles, said civil defense spokesman Capt. Mohammed Abdu Al-Sayed.

Iran was increasing its support to the Houthis to undermine efforts for peace, Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, the political analyst and international relations scholar, told Arab News.

“They want the Houthis to sabotage all they can in Saudi Arabia, regardless of whether their target is a populated area, oil facilities or even a sacred place. This adds tension to the area, and that is what Iran is working on.”

Iranians want the Houthis to sabotage all they can in Saudi Arabia, regardless of whether their target is a populated area, oil facilities or even a sacred place. This adds tension to the area, and that is what Iran is working on.

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, political analyst and international relations scholar

Al-Shehri said the situation in Yemen would remain the same unless the legitimate government was returned to Yemen, Security Council Resolution 2216 was put into practice and the Houthi militia were removed.

“Without these things, the Yemen crisis will not end and the whole region will remain in tension.”

The Houthis did not differentiate between military sites and civilian locations, he said.

“Their objective is to damage all places they can reach in Saudi Arabia, and their latest attempts to attack a populated area are nothing new.

“They have also targeted airports and some Aramco oil facilities. If the Aramco attack had not been contained, the damage would have affected the whole Eastern region. They have also attempted to target Makkah, where pilgrims and worshippers were performing their rituals.

“They don’t care. If you look back at what the Revolutionary Guards did at the Grand Mosque, you will realize it is not strange that the Houthis are trying to destroy everything in Saudi Arabia. The strange thing is the silence of the world toward what is happening.”