Four Panama ship crew arrested for using banned satellite phone

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Kolkata, June 24 (IANS) The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has arrested four members of a Panama-based vessel for using a banned communication set that was used by terrorists in the Mumbai terror attack, an official said on Friday.

The vessel, named MV Frontier Triumph, was found using an undeclared and camouflaged ‘Thuraya’ satellite communication set in Indian waters, following which four of the 23 crew members, including the ship’s master Alajandro C. Dango were arrested, a statement said.

An official statement said the Threat Management System (TMS) at Kolkata picked up unauthorised transmission on June 9.

The geographical location of the source of transmissions was identified and the Indian Coast Guard Ships Amogh and Sarojini Naidu based at Paradip were diverted to investigate.

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Frontier Triumph, a merchant vessel, was found anchored at the location and the investigating team found on board banned ‘Thuraya’ satellite communication set.

According to the ICG, the name ‘Thuraya’ on the set was concealed under the label ‘Marino Phonepal’.

Usage of Thuraya satellite phones is banned in Indian territorial waters under Section 6 of the Indian Wireless Act and Section 20 of the Indian Telegraph Act.

“Thuraya phones have frequently been used by anti-India terror groups for their activities in Jammu and Kashmir — even the attackers in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack used the same,” the ICG said.

“These phones were banned in India a few years back. What makes them the equipment of preferred choice of terrorists is that they are extremely difficult to be tracked real-time. Besides, getting the call records is another problem area as it would not be easy to find out which country’s satellite are the phones linked to and the servers of the company are located in the UAE,” the ICG said.

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The presence of the communication set was not declared, as the law requires. The last port of call of the vessel was Singapore.

“Alajandro C. Dango, the master of the Panama based vessel Frontier Triumph, had not declared the presence of the ‘Thuraya’ set in the Pre Arrival Notification System (PANS) of the vessel, a mandatory declaration for all boats and ships that intend to enter Indian waters,” the statement said.

The ship was then detained off Dhamra port in Odisha, and an FIR was lodged.

“Deliberate use of unauthorised equipment is in direct contravention of the Director General Shipping order No. 02/2012. The ship had been detained off Dhamra port and an FIR was lodged by Dhamra Marine police station on 20 Jun 16,” it said.

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After that, customs, police and the Coast Guard worked in direction of ascertaining the purpose and usage of the set.

It was discovered that the phone had been used to make two calls from within the Indian waters.



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