Hungary to bolster regulations following SIM card scandal

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The Hungarian government is planning to introduce stricter regulations for purchasing SIM cards in the country, after a scandal suggesting some 200,000 burner SIM cards could have been purchased from Magyar Telekom by alleged terrorist cells using the name of one single homeless person, according to reports.

In the wake of the scandal, the Hungarian government is planning to adopt stricter laws for purchasing SIM cards, Hungarian daily Magyar Idők reported, citing unnamed government sources. Interior ministry sources told the daily that negotiations have already started involving the government, the National Media and Infocommunications Authority, and representatives of telcos in Hungary. 

Magyar Telekom told Magyar Idők that “there are no legal constraints in Hungary as to how many SIM cards a client can buy, and service providers are under no obligation to examine this.” Hungarian laws for mobile service providers are not as strict as in some other European countries, where SIM cards can only be bought if ID is shown, József Horváth, a secret services expert told state-owned news channel M1 on Thursday.

Hungarian press reports suggested earlier this week that an as yet unnamed homeless person could have purchased the first few cards. That person has since died, but his name was allegedly used to purchase approximately 200,000 SIM cards. These burner SIMs could have been purchased for illegal underground activities, reports speculate. In deed, they may have been used by terrorist cells involved in the recent Paris and Brussels attacks, French and Belgian authorities have informed the Hungarian counter terrorist forces TEK, according to Hungarian online newspaper index.hu.

TEK announced on September 30 that 14 terrorist suspects, thought to have been involved in plotting and executing the Paris and Brussels attacks, had passed through the country in the summer and fall of 2015. The terrorists spent some time in the country, but the Islamic State terrorist organization did not build a network here, TEK was reported as saying.    

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