FIVE members of a SIM Box fraud syndicate operating in United States of America (USA) and Accra who were recently arrested by the police for illegally intercepting electronic communication in the country, have been hauled before an Accra Circuit Court.
The accused persons, Kofi Osei, a network technician, Eugene Parker, Kingsley Lartey, Richard Kwakye and Mawuli Ahiekpor, all students, were charged with five counts of unauthorized access or interception of electronic record without authority, possessing illegal devices, providing electronic communications service without licence, knowingly interfering with the sending, transmission, delivery and reception of communication and abetment of crime.Â
They pleaded not guilty to the charges and were remanded into police custody by Audrey Kocuvie-Tay to re-appear on June 15.
SIM box fraud is an activity by certain individuals or organisations who buy thousands of SIM cards and offer free or low cost calls to mobile numbers.
The SIM cards are then used to channel national or international calls away from mobile network operators and deliver them as local calls, costing operators revenue.
According to DSP Abraham Annor, the prosecutor, for the past eight months that the accused persons had been operating illegally, they had made an illegal profit of GHÂ˘7,200,000. Â
DSP Annor disclosed that a US-based company named UPM Telecom was the brain behind the syndicate.
â€śThis company perpetrated its fraudulent activities with the connivance of the accused persons. The US company hosts a SIM server in the USA while the accused persons host the clients servers in their rooms and in the rooms of the others and other strategic locations in Ghana, to avoid detection,â€ť he further said.
Narrating to the court the circumstances that led to the arrest of the accused persons, the prosecutor stated that the complainant in the matter was the National Communication Authority (NCA) while the accused persons were Ghanaians residing in Accra.
He observed that for some time now, the nationwide activities of SIM Box operations had been of concern to telecom service providers in the country.
As a result of that, the CID Headquarters, in collaboration with officials from the NCA and the telecom service providers, on May 30, 2012 mounted operations at areas such as Teshie, Tebibiano, Greda Estate, Achimota, Tantra Hill, Dome Pillar 2, Haatso, Accra New-Town, ATTC-Kokomlemle, Abelenkpe, Chantan, St. Johnâ€™s, Adabraka, Winneba and Koforidua.
These operations, according to the prosecutor, led to the arrest of the accused persons and others in their various homes where they had mounted SIM servers in their rooms with routers, laptops and large quantities of scratch cards of telecom providers in Ghana and two from Ivory Coast.
The accused persons allegedly used internet connectivity to power their illegal servers to transmit communication signals to the SIM server in the USA.
This therefore allegedly enabled them to operate illegally, thereby depriving the nation of a lot of revenue.
Their actions, the prosecutor noted, had also interfered with the sending, transmitting, delivery and reception of communication in Ghana.
One of the accused persons, Mawuli Ahiekpor, a call center agent for one of the service providers, was arrested allegedly unblocking a number of SIMs for Kofi Osei as a result of the illegal activities.
The prosecutor stated that 25 of the equipment they used were intercepted, explaining that those machines were capable of generating a total sum of GHÂ˘ 30,000 a day.
A BMW saloon car with registration number GR 6056-12 and a Nissan Altima with registration number GT 1280-11 belonging to Kofi Osei and Eugene Parker, which were reportedly purchased through revenue from their illegal business, was seized by the police.
Â By Mary Anane