Farouk Arnaz & Tasa Nugraza Barley
Police say directors from three separate mobile phone operators are connected with two content providers allegedly involved in a phone credit theft ring.
Police questioned directors from telecoms firms XL Axiata, Indosat and 3 last week. They have not ruled out changing the directors’ status from witnesses to suspects.
“They have connections with the suspects from the content providers,” National Police director for special crime Brig. Gen. Arief Sulistyanto said.
Police declared Krisnawan Pribadi, Telkomsel’s vice president for digital music and content management, as a suspect in the phone scam worth Rp 12 billion ($1.3 million) per month. They questioned him last week.
Arief said the police and the Attorney General’s Office would discuss the case further before deciding how to proceed.
Krisnawan was named along with H.B.N., the head of Colibri Networks, and W.M.H, the head of Mediaplay, as suspects in the phone credit theft ring that flooded customer’s phones with unsolicited text messages, fortunes, games, quizzes and ringtones.
Some 2 million Telkomsel customers were then charged an average of Rp 6,000 per month, Comr. Gen. Sutarman, the National Police chief of detectives, said in December.
Unsolicited content has long attracted ire from customers, but it wasn’t until East Jakarta resident Feri Kuntoro, who was tired of paying for the text messages, filed a formal police complaint in October. Feri reportedly lost more than Rp 100,000 per month from the scam. He told police that he had tried to unsubscribe from the service but could not.
Since then, additional customers have come forward with similar complaints.
Arief said earlier that executives at the content providers had played an active role in helping operators extract billions of rupiah from customers and received money in return.
“In Colibri’s case, for instance, operators got 40 percent while the content provider got 60 percent,” he said.
Arief said the operators and providers could have stolen hundreds of billions rupiah from customers each month. “This is a pure theft case. However, we need time to solve the case because it is related to the application of technology,” he said.
Telkomsel, a publicly listed company, has said that it is doing everything it can to assist the police investigation.
The company said Krisnawan had been temporarily removed from his position to focus on the allegations against him.
Separately, a senior director of Sony Music Indonesia said that the country’s music industry was experiencing a difficult time since the phone credit theft cases emerged, claiming that the purchases of ring back tones had dropped by 90 percent.