Conmen hack ministers’ phones, two arrested

Wednesday February 21 2018

Victims. Ms Persis Namuganza, Mr Christopher

Victims. Ms Persis Namuganza, Mr Christopher Kibanzanga and Mr Mwine Rwamirama Mpaka 

By ANDREW BAGALA

Kampala. The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID) has arrested two MTN senior officials on accusations of duplicating SIM cards of two ministers and a Member of Parliament to con various people.
The CID identified the suspects as Mr Henry Magembe, a salesman and supervisor in Mubende District, and Mr Nasser Kigenyi, a supervisor in Bunyoro sub-region. They allegedly authorised the duplication of the SIM cards of State Minister for Agriculture Christopher Kibanzanga, State Minister for Lands Persis Namuganza and Western Region Youth MP Mwine Rwamirama Mpaka.

Mr Vincent Ssekatte, the CID spokesman, confirmed the investigations and arrest of the two MTN Uganda officials.
“We are holding them on charges of electronic fraud, unlawful modification of computer material, unauthorised access to SIM cards, conspiracy to commit a felony, false registration of SIM cards and impersonation,” Mr Ssekatte said yesterday.

Police could not readily establish the number of people the suspects conned or the amount of money they plundered from the victims.
By press time, the police detectives had not interviewed the ministers and the MP about the case.
Mr Ssekatte said CID is also investigating to find out whether the accused have accomplices within the telecommunication company who facilitated or were part of the fraud scheme.
According to Mr Ssekatte, the investigations started when ministers reported to MTN claiming some people had used their mobile phone numbers to demand money from their unsuspecting relatives and friends.

Police called in
“MTN informed us and we started an investigation. We found out that the SIM cards were swapped between January and February this year in Mubende District,” he said.
Detectives arrested Magembe, who told them it was his supervisor, Kigenyi who gave him the three SIM cards to duplicate. However, he couldn’t tell where the old SIM cards he swapped were.

Kigenyi was also subsequently arrested.
Mr Ssekatte said Kigenyi first told detectives that he was contacted by people on social media to help them swap their faulty cards. He further said when Kigenyi was tasked to give identities of the complainants, he said he could not recall their particulars.
“He didn’t follow the procedure required by his company to swap the SIM cards,” Mr Ssekatte said.

Investigations have also revealed that at the time the fraud was being carried out, the two ministers and MP could not pick or make calls on their MTN cellular lines. However, their mobile phone lines would later be activated when the fraud had been executed.
Ministers Namuganza and Kibanzanga could not be reached for a comment by press time as calls to their cellular lines went unanswered.
Mr Ssekatte said police suspect there are insiders who aided the suspects outside to switch the victims’ mobile phones on and off during the commission of the alleged crimes.

The MTN spokesperson, Mr Val Okecho, confirmed they are aware of the case and said the company would send a statement about the matter.
Another senior official from MTN, Mr Anthony Katamba, explained that when they received complaints from their clients, they immediately started tracking the phones that were being used and helped the police to locate the culprits. He said the culprits, who turned out to be their field staff, were receiving the money on the duplicated lines and transferring it to different networks. He said the company would give all the support to ensure the culprits are brought to book.

The fraud
How it is done. When Daily Monitor contacted MP Mpaka on his MTN number yesterday, he did not pick the call. But the recipient at the other end sent a text message on the same line asking for money.
“Sorry! You are calling me, but I am in a meeting. I will call you later. Meanwhile, help me and get for me (sic) where there is Airtel Money and you deposit Shs190,000 on 0701577660. It is in the names of Mbabazi Lilian. I will refund you later if you don’t have, borrow for me because it is urgent. Thanks,” the message read, suggesting the MP’s line was still being used by the conmen.

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