Mobile trafficking


Ross Bulla

The practice of purchasing and reselling prepaid mobile phones and accessories in bulk is a lesser known way for terrorist organisations to raise funds and launder money, explains Ross Bulla.

How it works

Prepaid mobile phones are often sold at kiosks in shopping centres or at chain retail stores and pharmacies. To thwart bulk purchases, retailers are contractually required to limit sales to no more than three per customer. Knowing this, diverters hire ‘runners’ to visit as many retailers per day as possible and purchase the maximum quantity from each retailer.

When sufficient quantities have been obtained, the diverter/trafficker will often remove the handsets and batteries, discarding the packaging, chargers, user manuals and other accessories. Before preparing the handsets and batteries for shipment, the handsets might be unlocked and ‘flashed’ (reprogrammed) to operate on other service providers’ networks.

mobile phones, trafficking, infringement, surveillance, Treadstone