The Joint Anti-Telecom Fraud Task Force has arrested five suspected SIM Box fraudsters, including two Syrians and a Pakistani, whose operations have led to a revenue loss of US$21.9 million to the state.
They are Mohammed Nassar Aziz, a 35-year-old Pakistani; Abdul Malik El-Sebai and Mohanad Hamoud Agha, both Syrians; and Samuel Adu Amoako, and Emmanuel Mensah Boamah, both Ghanaians.
The suspects had in their possession, SIM box machines, over 2,500 Airtel, Vodafone, MTN and Tigo SIM cards and generators, among other gadgets which they had been using to terminate international call traffic.
The Task Force is made up of the National Communications Authority (NCA), the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service, as well as representatives from the telecom companies, with technical support from SUBAH Info Solutions.
Briefing the media on the arrest, the Director of CID, Commissioner of Police (COP) Prosper K. Agblor, said the suspects were arrested at their hideouts in Accra and Tema in two separate operations on March 19 and April 2.
He said the Pakistani and Amoako, his Ghanaian counterpart, were arrested at their hideout at Community 18 (Lashibi) in Tema.
He said when the Task Force got to the location, it discovered that the suspects had mounted two pieces of 2N star gateway SIM devices, with 256 and 128 SIM Slots respectively which the suspects were using, together with two 2 UPS, one Lenovo laptop, a CISCO 1800 series router, 49 mini antennas, and a quantity of TIGO SIM cards, to illegally terminate international calls.
“During investigations, suspect Mohammed Nassar Aziz claimed ownership of the equipment which, he said, he brought into the country from the United Kingdom where he domiciled,” and DCOP added that Aziz claimed to work for a U.K-based company, GTE Telecom, as a computer technician.
He said the suspect also told the police that his company wanted to set up a call centre in Sierra Leone but due to the absence of internet service in that country, he was assigned by the company to bring the equipment to Ghana for testing, after which they would be supposedly sent to Sierra Leone for operations when internet becomes available.
However, he said, investigations by the police revealed that the suspects smuggled the devices into the country in November, last year and had since been terminating international calls.
The Director of CID said the suspect entered the country with a 14-day single visa which expired last year, and had been in the country without a resident permit to do business.
According to him, the Pakistani and his Ghanaian counterpart, who denied the state US$4.7 million revenue, were arraigned before court on April 8 and remanded in police custody until April 13.
COP Agblor said the two Syrians, El-Sebai and Mohanad Agha, were arrested at their residence at Abelenkpe in Accra on March 19.
“The Task Force retrieved 1,211 Airtel SIM cards, 1,070 Tigo SIM cards, 22 MTN SIM cards, as well as 15 Glo SIM cards. In all, a total of 2,300 SIM cards and assorted used scratch cards were retrieved from the suspects,” he said.
DCOP Agblor said the suspects smuggled the equipment into the country and added that they had been operating for almost six months before their arrest by the Task Force.
“Both suspects mentioned Nour Higazi, a Lebanese national in Beirut, Lebanon, as their accomplice and have been receiving a monthly wage of US$1000 each, though their tourist visas have expired and they have no work permit to engage in business activities in the country,” he said.
Agblor cautioned the public to desist from SIM box fraud and added that the Task Force would continue to hunt the fraudsters, arrest them, and make them face the full wrath of the law.
By Yaw Kyei