Australia's government says that it will make it an offence to 'rebirth' stolen mobile telephones by modifying their unique IMEI number, the Minister for Communications, Information, Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, and the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison, announced last week.
The mobile telecommunications industry estimates that approximately 100,000 mobile telephones are either lost or stolen in Australia each year, and this measure will assist greatly in the Government's efforts to reduce this problem.
Senator Alston said technology had been developed which could bar stolen mobile telephones from accessing Australian mobile networks by "blocking" their IMEIs. From 1 April this year, all GSM mobile phone carriers are actively blocking lost or stolen mobile phones from their networks.
"However at present it is not illegal to change a telephone's IMEI and thereby evade a mobile telephone block, although in some cases it would amount to fraud," Senator Alston said.
"The proposed offence will criminalise the illegitimate modification of a mobile telephone's IMEI."
Senator Ellison said the proposed Commonwealth offence would complement State and Territory theft offences which already covered the act of stealing a mobile telephone.
"This proposed Commonwealth offence will provide law enforcement with another important weapon to combat the illicit trade in lost and stolen mobile telephones," Senator Ellison said.
Senator Ellison said the maximum penalty for the proposed offence would be two years imprisonment. The proposed offence would not apply to a legitimate modification made by a manufacturer.
It will be an offence to possess or control data or a device with the intention of it being used, by that person or another person, to illegally modify or change the IMEI of a mobile telephone. It will also be an offence to produce, supply or obtain data or a device with the intention of it being used, by that person or another person, to illegally modify or change the IMEI of a mobile telephone.
Senator Alston said the new offences build on initiatives already in place under the National Response Plan on future management of stolen mobiles developed by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) and State and Territory police forces."
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