Ghana: Jail sentence given for illegal termination of international calls

Telecoms

Hassan Nonni, a middle aged man believed to be the mastermind behind illegal termination of international telephone traffic in the country has been sentenced to five years imprisonment by an Accra Fast Track High Court.

The termination of international telephone traffic is a fraudulent practice by which international calls are masked to appear as local ones, thereby denying the country and the service providers’ large amounts of revenue.

Nonni was being held for providing electronic communication service without licence and knowingly obstructing, interfering with sending, transmission, delivery and reception of communication.

The court presided over by Mr Justice Bright Mensah sentenced him to five years on each count. However, the sentences are to run concurrently with effect from the day of his arrest. Nonni earlier on pleaded not guilty but when the case was called on Tuesday changed his plea to guilty.

This was after an expert from the National Communication Authority (NCA) had testified. Following the rising incidence of fraud in inbound telephone traffic to Ghana, the Government mandated the NCA to intensify its fraud watch activities over the telecommunication operators.

As a result, a joint anti-fraud task force was set up by the NCA, in conjunction with the telecommunication operators, to track down people involved in fraudulent by-pass of international calls and that culminated in the arrest of the accused.

In November 2010, Nonni was arrested at his hideout at Achimota, a suburb in Accra.
He is a Ghanaian who has been resident in Italy for the past 23 years and holds an Italian passport. In his possession at the time of his arrest were sophisticated gadgets used in his illicit enterprise.

Experts identified them as a Cisco Router and three pieces of Telles IGate equipment, which uses four megawatts user Internet account, each with 16 slot cards. Also in Nonni’s possession were 3,869 SIM cards, mainly from Vodafone and Zain now Airtel.

Each of the SIM cards is capable of generating approximately $40 and estimated that his operations had led to the loss of millions of dollars to telecommunication operators and government.

Nonni told the Police that he received international voice traffic from customers all over the world which he routed into Ghana through his SIM Box system before terminating the calls to the appropriate recipients on the platforms of the local telecommunication companies.

He alleged that he started the SIM Box business in September 2010 and ended in the first week of October 2010, adding, however, that “hand-written records at his operation centre indicated that the suspect was actively in business even as of November 9, 2010”.