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Crime & Punishment of Saturday, 11 August 2018


9 in court over GHC326 million UMB scam

Nine persons have been put before an Accra Circuit Court for allegedly targeting GH¢326,120,000 in the accounts of Universal Merchant Bank (UMB).

The suspects, together with 17 others, who are currently on the run, are said to have between July 22 and 23, 2018 transferred over GH¢1,000,000 of the amount into 18 separate bank accounts which they created with the bank.

They were able to withdraw only GH¢278,000 out of the huge amount using visa cards and mobile money accounts.

The suspects are believed to be part of a wide network of cybercrime syndicates comprising Ghanaians and Nigerians.

Their activities were detected by the bank which blocked them and subsequently caused their arrest, while efforts are being made to apprehend the rest.

This was after the bank had detected that all the accounts that the money was credited to were all single-purpose accounts opened purposely to receive the stolen money and UMB quickly flagged all the accounts.

So far, nine persons have been put before the court on two counts of conspiracy to commit crime to wit stealing and stealing.

They are James Akwesi Kwarteng, Isaac Kwesi Addokwei, Joseph Kwesi Owusu, Ernest Acheampong and Woemenor Philip.

The rest are Stephen Kofi Tampuri, Michael Nana Yaw, Chief Kingsley Chidi Ebere and Goodluck Otadu.

They all pleaded not guilty to the two charges leveled against them. Their lawyers prayed the court to grant them bail pending the trial.

Andrew Vortia, who represented four of the suspects, told the court that his clients will avail themselves for the trial.

He said his clients are innocent and the real perpetrators are those who are on the run.

He told the court that his clients have not withdrawn even a penny from the bank and know nothing about the crime.

Other lawyers prayed the court to grant their clients bail, urging the court that their clients are not flight risk.

There was give-and-take between the lawyers and the prosecution, led by ASP Mawunyo Nanegbe, who urged the court to consider the quantum of the money involved before granting the suspects bail.

The court, presided over Harriet Akweley Quaye, adjourned the matter to August 14 to study the docket so that she can determine the quantum of the bail in the interest of fair trial.

The management of Universal Merchant Bank (UMB) last month issued a statement that it successfully thwarted a cyber attack on its systems by some miscreants, who attempted to hack into its infrastructure.

It said the operation, which was done in collaboration with the Ghana Police Service, led to the arrest of members of the syndicate who are currently in police custody assisting in further investigations.

A statement issued by UMB, which is a leading Ghanaian indigenous bank with considerable financial expertise, attributed the success of the operation to the significant infrastructural investments made into the bank’s operational systems.