Man jailed four years for illegally selling SIM cards

Those buying Tan's SIM cards, such as loan sharks, could use them without being traced.
Those buying Tan's SIM cards, such as loan sharks, could use them without being traced.

A 43-year-old man who illegally sold more than 66,000 SIM cards to mobile phone shops was yesterday jailed for four years.

Tan Kong Chieh had registered false ownership information for SIM cards belonging to local telecoms companies Singtel, StarHub and M1 between January 2010 and August 2012, before selling them off.

As a result of his actions, people who wanted to remain anonymous - such as loan sharks and their runners - could buy the pre-registered SIM cards and use them without being traced, the court heard.

Tan had earlier pleaded guilty to 220 out of 660 charges under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act. The remaining 440 counts were taken into consideration during sentencing.

A district court heard that Tan sold SIM cards to retailers on a freelance basis and worked from his Yuan Ching Road home.

Since November 2005, mobile service providers have had to record the personal details of those who buy prepaid SIM cards. These details are submitted electronically to the telcos through a terminal device issued to retailers by the mobile service providers.

In order to register a prepaid SIM card, the user has to scan the NRIC or passport of a customer.

In August 2012, the police got a tip-off that Tan was using altered foreign passports to register prepaid SIM cards from his Lakeside Towers home.

He was arrested in a raid later that month. Police seized, among other things in his home and car, 3,598 prepaid SIM cards, a terminal device and 704 passport images belonging mainly to Chinese and Indian nationals.

Tan's wife gave up another terminal device to police.

The prosecution had called for a stiff sentence, noting that Tan's actions directly facilitated unlicensed moneylending crimes.

"A strong message needs to be sent to anyone thinking of illegally registering SIM cards - if you do so, you are effectively registering yourself for a stay in Changi Prison," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Sanjiv Vaswani.

Tan could have been fined $10,000 and jailed for three years on each of the charges.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2016, with the headline Man jailed four years for illegally selling SIM cards. Subscribe