The Economic and Organised Crime Unit (EOCO) has arraigned two men, Maxwell Peter (First Accused), and Babatunde Martins (Second Accused) on a count of conspiracy to defraud, two counts of defrauding by false pretenses, nine counts of conspiracy to have unauthorised access to a computer system and two counts unauthorised interference with electronic record.
Both Accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges.
According to the Prosecutor, Charles Ofori, a state attorney, based on mutual legal assistance corporation, a joint investigation team was duly constituted between officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Ghana Police Service, Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) officials and EOCO officials to investigate the matter.
Mr. Ofori stated that investigations revealed that between 2007 and 2016, the First, Second and other persons created a sham e-mail which was linked to a real estate company in Memphis, Tennessee, and infected the company’s email accounts and other computers.
He explained that the malware spread into the company’s entire computer network and harvested information including company files and credentials and gave the Accused persons access to sensitive company information.
The State Attorney went on to say that the Accused persons monitored email correspondences of the company to determine when a large financial transaction was going to take place. After the initial transfer or wiring instructions are conveyed between legitimate customers and the company, the Accused persons send a follow up email that appears to be coming from the legitimate company or its customers to misdirect the funds into their bank accounts.
According to the Prosecutor, three other Accused persons acting with a common purpose, utilised and controlled their email accounts and that of the company to determine how the misdirected funds are distributed among them.
“Presently all the accused persons have been charged with the same offences in the United States District Court in Tennessee and arrest warrants have been issued against them”, the State Attorney said.
He further explained that the First Accused is about twenty five years old living an ostentatious life in Tamale, and is the breadwinner of his family.
According to Mr. Ofori, the First Accused was arrested in Tamale on the 28th of November 2017, in a different matter on charges of defrauding by false pretenses and has been granted bail in the sum of GH¢200,000 in a District Court presided over by His Worship Anthony Ansah, with two sureties who are civil servants.
“When the First Accused was arrested, some community members invaded the Police barracks and the District Court causing fear and panic and that was basis for which the First Accused was transferred to Accra, and the Second Accused was arrested on the 30th of November, 2017 and arraigned before the High Court on the same day”, the Prosecutor stated.
The Prosecutor stated that investigations revealed that the Accused persons acting together with a common purpose received Ten million United States Dollars as proceeds of the unlawful activities.
According to the State Attorney, the bank account of the Second Accused indicated that he received over Two Million United States Dollars into his bank account at Guaranty Trust Bank Ghana Limited, Ecobank Ghana Limited and other banks under the guise of engaging in legitimate trade with a company known as AFRIOCEAN Limited.
“Available information also revealed that all the other Accused persons also received large sums of money into their bank accounts from these unlawful activities and the Accused were communicating among themselves through their emails at all material times when they were receiving these funds”, Mr. Ofori explained.
He narrated that a search conducted in the extravagant house of the First Accused revealed that there was a lot of information on his laptop and mobile phone that linked the First Accused and all other accused persons in these unlawful activities. The Prosecutor further stated that the said items have been seized.
According to the Prosecutor, a copy of the indictment of the United States District Court and arrest warrant were to be disclosed to the court only, and he prayed the court to remand the Accused persons.
Counsel for the First Accused, prayed the court to grant him bail, stating that the same case was before the Tamale District Court and just when the Accused person was granted bail, he was whisked away by the Police.
Counsel for the First Accused said that the prosecution had not stated why the Accused persons should be remanded.
He also said that the First Accused had been detained since 28th December 2017, and that he (First Accused) has a fixed place of abode and is the bread winner of his family.
Counsel for the Second Accused stated that the same case was before the Financial and Economic Division of the High Court.
Counsel for the Second Accused prayed that the proper order of the court should be for the High Court to continue on the same charges.
He also stated that the case before the High Court is bound to create a conflict between the decisions made at the High Court and the District Court.
Counsel for the Second Accused therefore prayed the court to decline jurisdiction.
In opposing the bail application, the State Attorney stated that the First and Second Accused persons have been discharged at the High Court and can appear before the District Court.
He also explained that four other Accused persons are still communicating, and that if the Accused persons are released they will interfere with their emails which are part of evidences gathered.
The case has been adjourned to 19th December, 2017 for a ruling on the bail application.