A WIGAN shopkeeper has become the first person in the UK to be successfully prosecuted under terrorism legislation for “unblocking” mobile phones.
Gharib Azdigh’s premises, Fone Fone in Ormskirk Road, Newtown, was raided by police in January 2009 and dozens of mobile phones were seized.
It was found that as well as “unlocking” phones, which is legal, Azdigh had also been illegally “unblocking” them and a specialised computer software programme for “unblocking” them was actually running at the time of the raid, said Peter Barr, prosecuting.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that each phone has a unique identifier but when it has been unblocked it can be used on any network with any sim card and is a totally new and untraceable phone.
Azdigh, 48, of Ormskirk Road, Newtown, pleaded guilty to four charges of offering or agreeing to reprogramme mobile phones and possessing the reprogramming software.
The offences were brought under the Mobile Telephones (Reprogramming Act) 2002.
Mr Barr said that officers also found a total of £9,500 cash and as Iranian-born Azdigh has since agreed not to contest its seizure the judge ordered that that cash should be confiscated.
He also imposed a conditional discharge for two years and warned Azdigh that the police were aware of what had been going on in the premises and not to re-offend. Paul Treble, defending, said that Azdigh no longer runs the shop and the business has been taken over by his son.
He had thousands of phones in stock but the software programme only related to one particular manufacturer.
It was not suggested by the Crown that his behaviour had been nefarious or related to terrorism and had been “inadvertent.”
Although he was the owner of the shop it was not necessarily he who had unblocked the phones, which numbered no more than 50, as he employed staff, said Mr Treble.
He had pleaded guilty, however, as it is a strict liability offence.
The maximum sentence is five years.