Sim box syndicate operating in Ghana, US busted

A simbox.

A collaboration between the Anti Fraud Unit of the National Telecommunications Authority (NCA), the telecom service provider, and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service has led to the busting of six members of a SIM Box syndicate operating in the United States (US) and Accra, Ghana.

The members of the syndicate, with their partners in the State of Oregon in the US, are said to have carried out their illegal activities in the past eight months, making a profit of GH¢7.2 million, Ghana’s currency.

Those arrested are Kofi Osei, 26; Eugene Parker, 27; Richard Kwakye, 28; Kingsley Lartey, 29; Kenneth Kpetsigo, 25, and Mawuli Ahiekpor, 30.

A US-based company, UPM Telecom, is said to be the brain behind the syndicate, as it hosts a SIM server in the US, while the six host their clients’ servers from their bedrooms and other strategic locations in Ghana.

‘SIM Box’ fraud takes place when individuals or organisations buy thousands of SIM cards offering 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.

African mobile operators are said to be under serious threat from SIM Box fraud as mobile networks and government regulators are facing a staggering annual revenue losses from ‘GSM Gateway’ or ‘SIM Box’ fraud.

At a joint press conference addressed by the Minister of Communications, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, and the Director-General of the CID, COP Mr Prosper Agblor, in Accra yesterday, Mr Agblor said the suspects used Internet connectivity to power their illegal servers to transmit communication signals to the SIM server in the USA.

That, he said, enabled the syndicate to illegally bypass the national gateway, thereby depriving the nation of a lot of revenue.

He said so far 25 servers, 18 cisco routers, six laptops and a large quantity of scratch cards of the telecom providers in Ghana and two others from Cote d’Ivoire were retrieved from the suspects when they were arrested.

According to him, the operations were mounted at Teshie, Tebibiano, the GREDA Estates, Achimota, Tantra Hill, Dome Pillar 2, Winneba, Koforidua, among other places.

He said one of the suspects, Mawuli Ahiakpor, a call centre agent of one of the service providers, was arrested for allegedly unblocking a number of SIM cards which had been blocked as a result of the illegal activities of the syndicate.

COP Agblor said one equipment was capable of generating GH¢1,200 and so far 25 equipment which generated GH¢30,000 per day had been seized.

For the eight months that the members of the syndicate had operated illegally, they were said to have made a profit of GH¢7.2 million.

Mr Iddrisu said the government and the NCA were alert to ensure that the fraudsters in the business were apprehended, no matter how long it would take.

He said the revenue loss to the state as far as that fraudulent act was concerned was enormous and urged the telecom companies to co-operate with the government and the regulator to wipe out the fraudsters from the country.

Source: Daily Graphic

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