Bangladesh police arrest 37 from China, Taiwan in illegal Internet phone operation

DHAKA (AFP) - Bangladesh security forces have arrested 37 Chinese and Taiwanese after raiding an illegal Internet telephone operation they were allegedly running in an upscale Dhaka neighbourhood, an official said on Monday.

Officers from the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) raided the apartment block late on Sunday and arrested the foreigners over the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) operation offering cheap international calls, RAB spokesman Habibur Rahman said.

"The rented the building to run illegal VoIP business. The foreigners include seven women. Thirty-two of them are Taiwanese and the rest Chinese.

They'll be handed over to a police station today," he told AFP.

"We've examined their papers. They don't have any work permit to operate in Bangladesh," he added.

The foreigners - most aged in their twenties and thirties - were paraded before local media along with seized telecoms equipment late on Sunday after the raid in capital's Uttara district.

Phone companies in Bangladesh offering international calls - including through VoIP services - must obtain a licence from the nation's telecoms regulator, ensuring large revenues for the government.

The RAB has busted dozens of illegal VoIP businesses in the past.

The VoIP business has been booming in the country thanks to the more than 10 million Bangladeshis who live and work overseas.