CHENNAI: Police on Thursday busted a major racket that involved refurbishing and selling stolen mobile phones as ‘imported’ devices for throwaway prices at Burma Bazaar as well as in other states and arrested 12 men. A hunt has been launched for three traders.
A deeply entrenched nexus among mobile phone robbers, ‘agents’ and some traders at Burma Bazaar helped the racket flourish, a police officer said. A trap was laid to nab robbers N Balamurugan, 40 and S Satish, 40, and agents Gulam, 36, Ali, 32, Iqbal, 35, and Kamaruddin.
Among the others, R Marudhu, 49, and S Anthonysamy, 48, were nabbed in the Seven Wells limits police limits, S Chandru, 38, and Pugazhendhi, 35, were nabbed under North Beach police station limits and Naveen Kumar, 27, of Vyasarpadi and Ajit, 19, of Pulianthope were nabbed in MKB Nagar. Nearly 60 phones were seized from some of them before all the arrested were sent to jail.
A few members of the network, an officer said, would snatch phones in different places in North Chennai and sell them to the agents who would trade them to shop keepers at Burma Bazaar. A few touches later, the ‘imported’ devices would be ready to be palmed off to unsuspecting customers, the officer added. Some were traded to neighbouring states.
Police became aware that a major racket was in operation after realizing that cases of people being robbed of mobile phones, which had dropped at the peak of the lockdown triggered by the still raging Covid-19 pandemic, again began increasing after several restrictions were lifted.
“We didn’t want to stop by simply cracking robbery cases and arresting the accused. We decided to track down stolen mobiles and the places where they went,” said joint commissioner of police V Balakrishnan. Special teams formed for the purpose found that the robbers often met the agents near the RBI subway early in the morning and exchanged the stolen mobiles, he said. The traders bought the phones for anything between 1,000 and 3,000.
After the arrests, another officer said, members of the special teams got on to the trail and traced some of the stolen mobile phones to major cities across the country before contacting the owners. “We informed them that they were using stolen mobiles and advised them to return the mobile phones to the nearest police stations. While some complied, many people couriered the phones to the police stations to avoid complications and legal troubles,” he added.