Five persons, including a woman, between the ages of 22 and 30 years, are standing trial for swapping SIM cards and using them to access and transfer various amounts from ECOBANK customers’ accounts.
The five are Frank Effah, 25, unemployed; Kwabena Agyapong, 30, a barber, Perlos Nyani aka Seth Baah, 30, unemployed, Ebenezer Yaw Annin, 25, unemployed and Aisha Ankoma Asumang, 22, a student.
Meanwhile, one Nicholas Gyekye Apoctae alias Paygez, who is said to be the gang leader and the brain behind the fraud is at large.
The accused persons are residents of Afrancho-Krobo, and Techiman-Takofiano.
They were arraigned before the court on conspiracy to commit a crime and unauthorised transfer and interception.
Their pleas are yet to be taken, but were remanded into police custody by an Accra Circuit Court, presided over by Samuel Bright Acquah, on Friday.
The trial court was told by the prosecuting officer, Chief Inspector Isaac Anquandah, that the management of Ecobank Ghana, represented by Peter Nyaba, Head of Internal Audit, reported the case.
According to him, on Wednesday, April 12, 2023, Ecobank Ghana reported to the police about some unauthorised transactions on some of their customers’ accounts.
According to Ecobank, internal investigations showed that customers who fell victim to these unauthorised transactions had their SIM cards linked to their bank accounts.
He said these SIM cards were swapped or replaced and issued to the perpetrators of the fraud to enable them gain access into the customers’ accounts to transfer various sums of money.
The court was told that the accused persons transferred the customers’ funds into the mobile money wallets of pre-registered SIM cards.
Indeed, one such victim had shared his story on social media, of how his MTN SIM card was swapped and used to steal GHS4,000 from his Cedi account and $8,000 from his dollar account.
Preliminary police intelligence revealed the location of the perpetrators around Assin Fosu and Kumasi.
Chief Inspector Anquandah added that based upon intelligence received, the police proceeded to Kumasi and upon sustained surveillance arrested all five accused persons.
The prosecutor continued that a search conducted on the suspects revealed Ecobank account opening slips, 72 Vodafone and MTN SIM cards and starter packs suspected to be pre-registered.
The court was told that the investigations are still ongoing to locate and arrest suspect Nicholas Gyekye alias Paygez.
Based on this, the prosecutor urged Mr. Acquah to remand the accused persons into police custody to further assist the investigation.
Meanwhile, it is an established fact that no fraudster can swap remotely the SIM card of any customer of a telcos without the aid of an insider, a staff of the telco.
Every transaction, including SIM swap, done by a telcos goes along with the credentials other staff who authorized the SIM swap. But the telcos mentioned in this matter, MTN and Vodafone are yet to name the staff involved.
It is the informed opinion of Techfocus that until the telco insiders are exposed, named and shamed this kind of fraud will continue because the perpetrators know their image will be protected even if they are sacked and jailed.