5 expats arrested in crackdown against Internet calls

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

5 expats arrested in crackdown against Internet calls

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.


NEOM launches 3 initiatives to support UN Sustainable Development Goals

NEOM launches 3 initiatives to support UN Sustainable Development Goals
Updated 22 April 2021

NEOM launches 3 initiatives to support UN Sustainable Development Goals

NEOM launches 3 initiatives to support UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • The initiatives were launched to celebrate World Creativity and Innovation Day
  • Department will work alongside MiSK Leadership, CyberX and Digital Giving programs

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s NEOM, a futuristic $500 billion megacity development, announced on Wednesday that it has launched three initiatives represented by the Social Responsibility Department.
The initiatives aim to support the sustainable development goals, celebrate the World Creativity and Innovation Day, and encourage the participation of the local community in developing innovative solutions that would support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
The department said that it will work alongside the MiSK Leadership, CyberX and Digital Giving programs, and with the University of Tabuk and the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, to launch these initiatives.
The first initiative is represented in the third batch of the Spark initiative and includes an innovative six-week training program designed to enhance the spirit of entrepreneurship among Saudi youth, the department said in a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency.
It introduces participants to the critical steps involved in starting a business and supports them with the necessary tools to form bright business ideas. From there, participants can turn them into vivid and realistic businesses for a sustainable future, in order for them to be able to present them to investors later.
The program is in support of the Kingdom’s drive to increase the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises in driving economic growth.
Last year, two batches of the program were successfully launched, benefiting 300 graduates, including 10 winners who passed the final round of Spark Tank.
The second initiative is the NEOM Generation Innovation Challenge, which will be held in partnership with the Industrial and Robot Innovation Center at the University of Tabuk. It involves challenging students from all over the Kingdom to present their ideas in the fields of water, energy, media, entertainment, transportation, health and food.
The ideas and their solutions must be centralized using artificial intelligence (AI) systems and be implementable in NEOM’s corresponding sectors. The participants will be evaluated based on their creativity, AI integration, and the extent to which their ideas align with NEOM’s approaches.
The third initiative is the CyberX Bootcamps, a non-profit platform for electronic awareness and digital knowledge under the supervision of the Digital Giving initiative. A training camp on AI and machine learning for youth will be held.
The department said it will spread awareness of the SDGs and provide opportunities for the local community to learn and gain important knowledge on sustainable development through quality education, gender equality, decent work and economic growth, sustainable cities and societies, as well as partnerships to achieve the goals.


Saudi aviation authority tightens COVID-19 controls at airports

The General Authority of Civil Aviation calls on everyone to adhere to the COVID-19 preventative measures. (SPA)
The General Authority of Civil Aviation calls on everyone to adhere to the COVID-19 preventative measures. (SPA)
Updated 22 April 2021

Saudi aviation authority tightens COVID-19 controls at airports

The General Authority of Civil Aviation calls on everyone to adhere to the COVID-19 preventative measures. (SPA)
  • GACA introduced screening points and appointed observers to ensure measures are fully implemented

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s aviation authority, in cooperation with security services, has stepped up inspections and control visits to airports and other authority buildings and facilities to monitor violations of precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has also introduced screening points to measure temperatures or check health data through the Tawakkalna app. It has also appointed a protocol officer for each facility and more than 250 observers to ensure that precautionary measures are fully implemented and followed.
In addition, GACA said it has increased educational awareness messages, and told businesses and other organizations operating in airports to adhere to health precautions.
GACA President Abdulaziz Al-Duaij stressed the importance of continuing to adhere to safety protocols set by the Ministry of Health — including wearing face masks at all times, continuous sterilization efforts, procedures to prevent overcrowding, and maintaining social distancing — and warned against complacency.
He said that only individuals registered with the Tawakkalna app will be allowed entry to authority buildings. He urged everyone to follow “the recommended health measures in order to preserve the gains achieved in combating the coronavirus” in the Kingdom which, he added, would not have been achieved without “the generous support from the Saudi leadership that placed citizens’ health and safety first and foremost.”
GACA added that it is working with the Ministry of Health to implement precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus at airports, and has put in place a package of health measures that meet global health and safety standards.


Saudi aid agency delivers $1.5 million medical aid package to Pakistan

Saudi aid agency delivers $1.5 million medical aid package to Pakistan
Updated 21 April 2021

Saudi aid agency delivers $1.5 million medical aid package to Pakistan

Saudi aid agency delivers $1.5 million medical aid package to Pakistan

The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) has delivered a special medical aid package worth $1.5 million to help combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Pakistan.
The consignment was officially handed over — on behalf of the center — by the Saudi ambassador to Pakistan, Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, to Akhtar Nawaz, chairman of the Pakistani National Disaster Management Authority, at the Saudi Embassy in Islamabad.
Items included 25,000 sterile surgical suits, 125,000 nonsterile surgical suits, 188,000 KN95 masks, 1,925,000 surgical masks, 9,500 nitrile gloves, and 46 respirators.
Nawaz thanked KSrelief for the medical equipment which he said would help his country’s fight against the COVID-19 outbreak. Saudi Arabia, through KSrelief, supports numerous health programs around the world aimed at tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.


Saudi Arabia donates $1m to UN Syria fund

Saudi Arabia donates $1m to UN Syria fund
Updated 21 April 2021

Saudi Arabia donates $1m to UN Syria fund

Saudi Arabia donates $1m to UN Syria fund
  • Al-Mouallimi also attended a Arab coalition meeting on Yemen
  • The Kingdom won seats on the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs and Commission on Population and Development

LONDON: Saudi Arabia has donated $1 million as part of the Kingdom’s contribution to the voluntary fund of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) on Syria.
The donation was handed over on Wednesday by the Saudi permanent representative to the UN, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, during a virtual meeting with the head of IIIM on Syria, Catherine Marchi-Uhel.
During the meeting, they reviewed the Kingdom’s regional efforts in general and in Syria in particular.
Al-Mouallimi said his country’s role in the Syrian issue is to support political solutions and humanitarian efforts.
Marchi-Uhel thanked Saudi Arabia for its generous support, and called on the Kingdom to continue providing political support for the Syrian crisis, especially in efforts to hold accountable those who commit heinous crimes against the Syrian people.
Al-Mouallimi also participated in a meeting with the permanent representatives of the coalition countries fighting to support the legitimate government in Yemen.
They discussed the latest developments in Yemen and the most prominent challenges, as well as the statement issued by the UN Security Council on Friday welcoming the Saudi peace initiative to end the conflict and reach a comprehensive political solution.
The initiative also calls for a nationwide cease-fire, the reopening of Sanaa airport, and allowing free movement of ships for refueling and goods.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has won a seat on the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) for 2022-2025, and on the UN Commission on Population and Development for 2022-2066.
Al-Mouallimi praised the high status and international confidence that the Kingdom enjoys, and its record of global successes in various fields.
He said the Kingdom, through its long experience and achievements in combating drugs and organized crime, will be an important tributary to the UN and the committee members in this field.


Who’s Who: Dr. Munir bin Mahmoud El-Desouki, president of King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology

Who’s Who: Dr. Munir bin Mahmoud El-Desouki, president of King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology
Updated 21 April 2021

Who’s Who: Dr. Munir bin Mahmoud El-Desouki, president of King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology

Who’s Who: Dr. Munir bin Mahmoud El-Desouki, president of King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology

Dr. Munir bin Mahmoud El-Desouki was appointed president of King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) by royal decree on April 19.
El-Desouki has been assistant minister at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT). He also worked as deputy minister for development and planning at the MCIT and senior adviser to the minister of MCIT.
El-Desouki has served on and chaired several national committees, held a number of positions in KACST and won numerous awards and prizes, including the 2014 Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Prize for inventors and the talented (Takreem) for his invention in electrical engineering called “Development through Time Integration.”
He gained his B.Sc. in electrical engineering from the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in 2002. He also received an M.A.Sc. in electrical and computer engineering from McMaster University, Ontario, Canada, in 2005.
El-Desouki attained his M.Eng. degree in engineering entrepreneurship and innovation from McMaster University in 2007.
He obtained his Ph.D. from the same university in electrical and computer engineering in 2010, specializing in CMOS imagers for low-level light biomedical applications, in addition to CMOS imagers for high-speed non-invasive fluorescence lifetime imaging systems.
El-Desouki has also published more than 85 scientific papers and articles in scientific journals and world conferences and has received more than 20 patents.