A SIM box syndicate operating at Community 11 in Tema in the Greater Accra Region was last Wednesday, February 19, 2020 busted in a combined operation by officials of the National Communications Authority (NCA), the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), KelniGVG and the Ghana Police Service.
Eleven SIM box equipment, each capable of using 352 SIM cards simultaneously, were retrieved from their operation site, along with other illicit equipment used for the criminal activity.
It is estimated that $1,938,816 in both revenue and taxes is lost per month, assuming each device operates for an average of 18 hours per day.
A statement issued by the NCA last Thursday said the authority was collaborating with the GRA, KelniGVG and the Ghana Police Service to intensify the monitoring of such activities.
It said the collaborating institutions would continue with their investigations and “issue further details later”.
The February 19, 2020 raid was the third since December 2019, according to the NCA.
The statement said another SIM box operator arrested in January 2020 had been granted police enquiry bail, while the operators of a separate SIM box syndicate whose premises were raided and shut down in December 2019 were on the run.
According to the NCA, the fraud management component of the Common Platform detected numbers used to illegally terminate international in-bound calls as local calls, while further investigations, in collaboration with the mobile network operators (MNOs), led to the detection of the location of the SIM box devices.
The statement said the Electronic Communications (Amendment) Act, 2009, Act 786 established the minimum rate for international incoming voice calls at $0.19 through licensed international gateways.
As a result, it said, the use of SIM boxes to bypass the legal routes for terminating calls in Ghana led to loss of revenue and taxes to both the state and the MNOs.
“It is, therefore, a criminal offence to operate a SIM box for the purpose of terminating international calls in Ghana. Offenders are liable to penalties that range from fines to terms of imprisonment.
“The NCA and the GRA, working with KelniGVG and the Ghana Police Service, are committed to detecting and apprehending SIM box fraudsters in the country,” it added.
How it works
SIM box fraud is an illegality perpetrated by Ghanaians and their international partners who route international calls through the Internet and terminate them on local mobile phone numbers to attract local charges.
The mechanism denies the government the necessary revenue from internationals calls.
Beyond the monthly losses, activities of the fraudsters have also led to the decline in International Direct Dialing (IDD) revenue from as high as GH?222 million in 2012 to about GH?56 million, which was projected for the end of 2019, a 74 per cent reduction.