Sim Boxing suspects charged for electronic fraud

 Six SIM boxing suspects arrested in Kampala last weekend, were on Thursday charged for electronic fraud at Buganda Road Chief Magistrates Court.

Appearing before magistrates Stella Amabilis and Marion Mangeni, three of the accused, Kagulire Ibrahim, Mutyaba Edward and Kavuma Ben pleaded guilty, while three others; Musaazi Denis, Bingi Maxie, Lubega Ezra denied the charges.

The suspects are facing several counts, including operating “a telecommunications apparatus to wit, GSMA gateway machine also known as a SIM box machine without a license issued by the Uganda Communications Commission”, contrary to section 22 and 85 of the Uganda Communications Act 2013.

The Uganda Police together with the Uganda Communications Commission and telecom operators conducted an operation last weekend in which eight suspects engaged in SIM boxing were apprehended. Two of the suspects were subsequently released.

Upon raiding their premises, the Police recovered several SIM boxes from the suspects, including one with 1,024 SIM cards and another with 545 SIM cards.

Using a SIM box, fraudsters are able to divert international calls and pass them off as local, thus depriving the telecom operator the due amount expected from an international call and the Uganda Government tax revenue.

SIM boxing refers to the act of setting up a device that can take in several SIM cards (a SIM box), which is then used to complete international calls received from the Internet as voice over IP (VoIP). The calls are in turn diverted to the in-country mobile network subscribers as local traffic, bypassing international call rates and most likely undercutting the tariffs charged by domestic mobile operators.

According to prosecution led by UCC Head of Legal Mr Abudu Sallam Waiswa, the six suspects and others still at large, between June 2019 and January 2020, while in Kampala, “knowingly and unlawfully used computer devices to wit, a GSMA gateway machine and MTN SIM cards to unlawfully intercept and terminate international calls in Uganda and disguise such international calls as local calls thereby defrauding MTN Uganda Limited of approximately UGX300m (three hundred million shillings) would be revenue from such international calls.”

The suspects are further accused of depriving the Government of more than Shs 200 million in taxes through the same fraudulent acts, which are contrary to Section 19 of the Computer Misuse Act.

The suspects who pleaded not guilty to the charges will be back in court on 27th January for mention of their case, while the convicts are to be sentenced on 29th January 2020.