First prosecution witness testifies in Sim Box fraud

The first prosecution witness in the Sim Box fraud case involving Dr.Alexander Kofi Tweneboa, former Ghana Real Estate Development Association (GREDA) boss, testified yesterday, that the device retrieved from the house of the accused was a Sim Box.

The witness, Theophelus Botchway, a fraud prevention officer at Vodafone Ghana, in his testimony at the Financial Division of the Accra Fast Track High Court, revealed that a joint anti-fraud task force made up of the National Communications Authority, the Ghana Police Service and the Telecom Operators undertook an operation in a house at Manet Cottage, on the Spintex Road, during which the accused, Tweneboa, was arrested for illegally possessing some communication devices.

After the seizure of the equipment, he (Theophelus Botchway) was invited to verify its authenticity due to his technical expertise.

After scrutiny, he admitted the device was a 64 Sim Slaughter box used for diverting foreign calls at the expense of the nation.

Mr. Botchway revealed to the court that the alleged illegality had cost the country about 900,000 dollars and explained that the amount was arrived at by calculating the average use of the equipment which was 16 hours by 24 hours over a period of five months.

Demonstrating how the device operates, he said, calls coming into the country from international destinations are channelled through the boxes into the country at zero cost, causing the perpetrator to make a lot of money at the expense of the country.

Immediately after his testimony, counsel for the accused, Fiifi Abban, commenced cross-examining him, challenging his assertion that the ports on the Sim box retrieved from the house of the accused were 64.

He argued that Sim boxes have positive uses and the fact that one was seen with a Sim box did not necessarily mean he was engaged in fraud.

Witness, however, remained resolute with his assertion, reaffirming that the ports were 64, adding that at the time of his detection, it was discovered that the accused had interfered with a number of international calls.

The court, presided over by Efia Serwaa Asare Botchway, adjourned the case to April 1, when the cross-examination would continue.

The accused is facing three counts of offence in an amended writ of summons filed before the court on March 12.

The charges are that the accused was providing electronic communication service without a licence, possessed an illegal device contrary to section 135 of the Electronic Transaction Act, and knowingly obstructed and interfered with the sending, transmission, delivery and receipt of communication contrary to the Electronic Communications Act.

The accused pleaded not guilty to all the three counts.

The facts of the case, as presented by Stella Ohene Appiah, a State Attorney, were that on January 15, 2015, a joint anti-fraud task force of the National Communications Authority, the Ghana Police Service and the Telecom operators embarked on an operation at House No.A9, Manet Cottage, Spintex Road.

A search of a room used as an office led to the discovery of one sim box equipment, internet modems, antenna and large quantities of sim cards of various telecom service providers.

According to the State Attorney, upon retrieval of the equipment, the caretaker of the house mentioned the accused person, Alexander Kofi Tweneboa, as the owner of the house and user of that office.

Kofi Tweneboa, upon his arrest, admitted ownership of the equipment and told the police that he was introduced to the sim box activity when his business took a nose dive, due to the economic situation in the country.

Even though the accused claimed to have been in the sim box business for about two months, investigations revealed that his illegal activity had gone on for not less than six months.

The State Attorney added that the total revenue loss to the state and the service providers over the period amounted to $919,296.

The accused is on bail.

By Edem Mensah-Tsotorme       

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