Home Minister: Stopping inmate-run scams requires holding service providers accountable

Home Minister Imran Abdulla responds to questions at the Parliament on February 15, 2023. (Photo/People's Majlis)

Stopping crimes by prison inmates using smuggled phones requires holding mobile phone service providers accountable, states Home Minister Imran Abdulla.

Imran made the remark in a written response to a question by Ibrahim Rasheed (Bonde), which was read during the parliamentary sitting Tuesday.

Bonde asked Imran where the authorities had installed antennas at prisons that can detect phone numbers used in “scam call centers” operated by inmates. He said that he had been informed that service providers refuse to disclose such information with investigative agencies.

Bonde asked for details of what the government has done to stop such crimes.

Imran responded that an antenna has been installed which collects information on phones used in and around Maafushi Prison, through efforts by the police and Communications Authority of Maldives (CAM) to stop such crimes.

He said that authorities have blocked 431 phone numbers used by inmates, blacklisted 365 IMEIs, 10 Ips, and 12 websites. He said that guards also raided cells of inmates suspected of running such crimes, confiscated communication devices, and placed the inmates in isolation.

Imran said the information collected from the antenna is stored with mobile service providers, resulting in massive challenges.

“Given the major challenges we face in this because they aren’t sharing complete information of the call records with Maldives Police Service, and because the information they share are in various formats, I find it imperative to have a legal standard to compel them to share such information with the police,” he said.

Imran also expressed concern over delays in disconnecting requested numbers, issuance of multiple SIMs under one name, issuance of multiple mobile phone numbers for ID card copies, registration of SIM cards under different names using passport numbers of expatriates, and usage of unregistered numbers.

CAM’s chief executive Ilyas Ahmed said the authority is making necessary changes to regulations and policies. He said the results of the changes will begin becoming evident in the next two-three months.

“There are challenges, but we are addressing them. Some issues have already been resolved,” he said.