Rica already being circumvented.

2011-07-05 00:00

GOVERNMENT’S bid to stop the use of cellphones in crime is apparently already being circumvented.

Pre-Rica’d SIM cards for the Vodacom, MTN and Cell C networks are for sale in shops in Johannesburg and Pretoria for as little as R10.

The cards, registered by a criminal syndicate, look just like the real thing and they work, reporters found this week.

The Rica process, which saw 30 million SA cellphone users have to register their SIM cards, and which cost the cell companies millions, might have been in vain, a security consultant said.

The process, under the Regulation of Interception of Communications Act (Rica), saw millions of users cut off when they failed to meet the June 30 deadline to register.

The law gives the authorities the right, with a judge’s permission, to intercept telecommunications in order to fight crime.

But with pre-registered SIM cards in the hands of criminals, the whole process could collapse.

Pretoria security consultant Colin Maitland told Beeld he knows of at least five shops in Pretoria where the cards are available over the counter.

He said when he went to the Sunnyside police to report the issue he was told it was a matter for the cellphone service providers, not the police.

Warrant Officer Duane Lightfoot, a spokesperson at the Sunnyside police station, said he is not aware of Maitland being turned away.

“If anyone has information about criminal activities like this, they must report it to the police.

“They will not be turned away, but the police will work with the cellphone providers to investigate,” he said.

Lightfoot said it is certainly the activity of a syndicate and the organised crime unit would get involved if necessary.

Vodacom said yesterday it is concerned about the allegations.

Portia Maurice, head of corporate communications, said the provider has no control over what clients do with SIM cards once they have been registered, and clients are allowed to register up to 100 SIM cards.

Eddie Moyce, head of customer service at MTN, said they are aware of the problem of pre-registered SIMs and are in the process of reporting a case to police.

MTN alone spent about R200 million on the Rica process.

Niekie van den Berg, DA deputy spokesperson on communications, commented: “This means the whole Rica process was in vain”.

The Communications Department said it is a concern that people are trying to undermine the law.

Spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso said however, he believes it is not the work of a syndicate but of individuals.

“This is not a big and widespread problem, but isolated incidents.

“It won’t cause the Rica system to collapse. These people are in the minority,” he said.

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