How not to organise a raid: CCK, Mobile operators’ botched operation

Yesterday (September 21) evening, the media got this message from Safaricom’s PR agency: “CCK-Mobile operators raid on key counterfeit handset dealers. Tomorrow at 9:30am at Jubilee Building.”

So today, I woke up expecting to experience an episode akin to those that were common in 2007/8 when Microsoft, the then just-established Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA) and Kenya Police officers would raid premises of alleged sellers of unlicensed software. But this was not to be.

On getting to the Jubilee Building, there were only a few journalists present, many of whom did not know what the raid would be about. On inquiry, (from the PR reps present, they also said they were waiting for the NSIS officer who was to lead the operation. And the wait began, for about 40 minutes.

The NSIS officer must have proceeded into the premises of the targeted firm (Oceanic Oil) without informing the media or the PR reps who’d been eagerly waiting for him outside. Then he called the PR reps and asked us to go in. He was not even there to make introductions and guide us on what to do, this being private premises situated on 2nd floor.

He only peeped outside and asked us to go in. Then hell almost broke loose.

On seeing cameras and people he did not know struggling to find their way into his office, a male voice from the room where the alleged equipment were kept asked who we’re and what we’re doing and ordered us out, before the cameras could film and capture anything. End of operation. There was no sting or raid as was previously hyped…

According to a brief from Safaricom, Oceanic Oil has allegedly set up intelligent SIM servers in the name of GSM Gateways or Gateways with the capacity to transit and terminate international minutes to any telecom network. In the industry, these servers have also been referred to SIM boxes.

The providers of these boxes are now providing very advanced features such as SIM Allocation and SIM Protection, with the boxes also having SIM cards storage capacity with capability to store up to 416 SIM cards which can be increased to about 496 SIMs.

The equipment does not discriminate on prepaid or postpaid SIM cards, since the boxes can select the most appropriate SIM card according to how it has been programmed such as credit availability, type of service, country, and operator targeted for termination.

The boxes also have more features that mimic Human Behaviour, allowing them to automatically activate SIMs, top up, enforce credit limit and credit transfer with little human interventions. These features are deliberately installed in these boxes to cover up these illegal activities from detection by the regulator.

To perform this business; one needs a Gateway Licence from CCK. In this case of raid, Oceanic Oil has been terminating international traffic without the requisite licence from CCK. This action contravenes the regulations.

The motivation of this activity is to avoid paying the licence fee to the commission hence denying the commission its rightful licence fees. Besides the licence fees, the government also loses tax money that they would have otherwise collected from the operators. Besides these losses, the quality of these calls terminated are of poor quality this affecting quality of service provided by the operators.

All good but many questions still linger after the amateurish operation: These include: Why did the NSIS officer (who’s said to be seconded to Safaricom) decide to go in the room first before calling the media, was he in some kind of negotiation with the suspect? Why were there no mobile operators’ reps as indicated in the invite? And is Oceanic Oil the only such firm engaged in this practise? And why were there no policemen? Answers please…