How Mumbai's stolen phones end up in Bangladesh

Updated: Jul 10, 2019, 07:22 IST | Anurag Kamble |

Cops bust Parle gang that had stolen 57 phones worth Rs 7.89 lakh in recent days, and unearth how they are smuggled into Bangladesh

Pic/ Getty Images
Pic/ Getty Images

All those phones you lost on trains, buses or in crowded places are probably on their way to Bangladesh or are already there. Two men arrested by the Vile Parle police last Friday have revealed a mobile theft racket that involves smuggling the phones into the neighbouring country.

The accused, who were in possession of 57 phones, were arrested from Koldongari in Andheri East before they could courier them to West Bengal. According to preliminary information, the phones were stolen from across the city in the last three weeks. The 57 mobile phones worth Rs 7.89 lakh have been seized from the duo.

Crowded local trains are the gang’s best bet for smooth mobile phone thefts. Following that, there is a three to four layered network to dispose of the smartphones Pic /Getty Images

Claimed to be salesmen

The Vile Parle police on July 5 received information regarding two men in possession of a large number of cell phones. They were scheduled to arrive at Jeevan Vikas Marg, Koldongari that day, the police were informed after which a trap was laid and Jahid Ahmed Khan, 27, and Mohammed Mobid Sheikh, 40, were arrested. The cops also seized a car and recovered 57 mobile phones from it.

Also read: Man arrested for allegedly stealing mobile phones from south Delhi

"During preliminary investigation, the accused claimed to be salesmen dealing in mobile phones but soon confessed to possessing stolen phones," a police officer from the Vile Parle police station said, adding, "The duo was collecting these phones from an agent to send them to West Bengal via courier."

Racket uncovered

Detailed interrogation of the accused uncovered the mobile theft racket in the city.

"There are four to five layers/levels in this. First is the actual thief (or machine as they call him) who picks up a cellphone from a target (kauwa). Two to three people work on the ground to select the target, pick up phone and divert the attention of the crowds thereafter" narrated a senior police officer.

The thieves then pass on the cell phone to their "master", who passes it through three to four more levels till it reaches the people who send them out of the country.

"Many of the phones we have recovered are locked and without a SIM card. Thieves or their masters switch the phones off as they know they will be smuggled out," added another officer. "The costlier a phone, the more commission is awarded to everyone involved."

The trio has been booked under section 413 (habitually dealing in stolen property), 414 (assisting in concealment of stolen property) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code and are currently in police custody.

Modus operandi

The gang has been divided according to Mumbai's suburban railway lines — Western, Central, and Harbour (including trans harbour) and long-route trains. The thieves then further divide themselves into sub-sections. For instance, the western line is divided into Churchgate to Andheri, Andheri to Borivli and Borivali to Dahanu. The phones thus stolen are then sold to their respective heads. "Jahid, a Jogeshwari resident, used to have his own mobile shop until some 10 years ago so he knew the business. He rose in the ranks of the racket quite early," said an officer.

Also read: Masked men spray paint CCTV, steal phones worth Rs 30 lakh in Vasai

Around 60-70 per cent of the theft happens in trains, while some are stolen in buses and crowded markets.

The police added that courier companies do not send phones if they are unpacked. "So the claims of the accused of couriering the stolen phones is fishy. We need to understand their functioning and ways of sending the phones to West Bengal. Also what happens to them there and how they are sent to Bangladesh is being probed," added another officer.

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