SIM Box fraudsters busted

Dr. Omane Boamah, examining one of the gadgets.   Photo: Hannah Nkrumah

Dr. Omane Boamah, examining one of the gadgets. Photo: Hannah Nkrumah

Six people, including Dr. Alex Tweneboah, former President of the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA), are in police custody, for their alleged involvement in Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Box fraud.

Their illegal operations between July last year, and early this month resulted in the loss of GH¢107.5 million revenue to the government.

Their arrests followed the collaboration between SUBAH Info Solutions Ghana Limited, the National Communications Authority and the Criminal Investigations Department.

The Commissioner of Police (COP) Prosper Kwame Agblor, Director-General of CID, at a news conference in Accra yesterday, disclosed that during a raid of a house at Batsonaa Manet in Accra on January 15, the Joint Anti-Telecom Fraud Task Force intercepted one SIM box with a 64-slot SIM server, 4G internet modem, a laptop computer and mini-antenas, and arrested its three occupants.

He said the three denied knowledge of the appliances and claimed the owner of the house, Dr. Tweneboah, a lecturer at the Asheshi University, who engaged them, owned them.

Dr. Tweneboah was subsequently traced and arrested and he accepted ownership of the equipment, admitting that he used them to terminate international calls illegally.

SIM box fraud occurs when individuals or organisations illegally terminate a voice call which is the preserve of registered licensed network operators, usually at lower costs than approved. These are then used to channel national or international calls away from licensed international gateway operators and presented as local calls on unlicensed networks.

The other five, arrested in separate operations in Kumasi, Tema, Accra and Koforidua, are Habib Alvin, 29, dealer in computer accessories, Francis Abbey, 22, trader, Ebenezer Boateng, 30, network engineer; Victor Owusu, alias Yaw Atta; and Kwadjo Asare, 21, both unemployed.

More than 21,000 assorted SIM cards of the various mobile networks, 24 SIM boxes, laptops, printers, internet modems and heavy duty batteries, were found with them.

The exercise was part of a nationwide operation, launched by the Joint Anti-Telecom Fraud Task Force in Accra, Kumasi,Tema and Koforidua, to clamp down on SIM Box syndicates. It brought the number of arrests in SIM Box fraud to 18, including 13 Ghanaians.

The Task Force is made up of detectives from the Criminal investigations Department (CID) Headquarters, officials of the National Communications Authority and various telecom operators, with technical assistance from SUBAH Info Solution, Ghana Limited.

COP Agblor said on January 10, the task force arrested Boateng, Owusu, and Asare who were operating four SIM boxes in a rented office at the SSNIT office complex in Koforidua in the Eastern Region.

Items retrieved from the office included large quantities of assorted scratch cards, four internet routers and three laptops.

On January 14, the task force traced and seized three SIM boxes, equipment, three SIM servers, a 4G Modem, a printer and a laptop in a house at North Kaneshie, Accra, but no arrest was made.

Habib and Abbey were arrested on January 16 at Asafo in Kumasi, and four SIM box equipment, two power inverters, six heavy batteries, antennas and assorted SIM cards seized from them.

“That same day at Gyinaase, Kumasi, the task force seized a 128-slot SIM Bank (X2),six SIM clients and Servicers, two CISCO routers, one satellite earth receiver system and one UPS battery pack, but there was no arrest made,” said COP Agblor.

On January 16, the team seized 12 GOIP SIM box equipment and accessories, one inverter and a computer from a building near the Fishing Harbour, Tema.

The caretaker of the building, David Ayisti, was arrested and he mentioned Daniel Nehme, a Lebanese SIM Box operator, as the owner.

He said Nehme had been arrested in January last year at La, put before court and granted bail, but later relocated to Tema to continue the criminal acts.

COP Agblor said efforts were being made to arrest all the suspects now on the run

He said the six have been charged with illegal termination and operating telecommunication without authority, contrary to the Electronic Communication Act 775, (2008).

They would re-appear in court on February 4.

Among those arrested in an earlier operation, was an Italian who is currently serving a five-year jail term, while a Nigerian, two Lebanese and a Briton are facing prosecution.

Dr Omane Boamah, Minister of Communications who also addressed the media, said the amount involved was worrying, and therefore urged the telecommunication providers to strengthen their systems, to help fight the menace, adding there is the need to detect unregistered SIM cards effectively.

The minister said mechanisms are being put in place to ensure that their activities are brought to an end, by December this year.

Dr. Omane hinted that the CID and the ministry would seek the Chief Justice’s advice on the threat posed by the menace, and ensure that the suspects receive severe sentences to deter others from the practice.

By Anita Nyarko &
Joy Addae-Madzi

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