Court grants UMB ‘hackers’ GH¢ 4.8 billion bail

BY: Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson

Twelve accused persons arraigned for conniving with 14 others to hack the system of Universal Merchant Bank (UMB) with the aim of stealing GH¢326million were Tuesday granted bail in the total sum of GH¢ 4.8billion by the Accra Circuit Court.

The court, presided over by Mrs Jane Harriet Akweley Quaye, admitted each of the accused persons to bail in the sum of GH¢400million with four sureties of which one must be justified.

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As part of the bail conditions, all the foreigners alleged to be part of the syndicate must also deposit a form of identification with the court registry.

The accused persons were granted bail after they had pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to steal and stealing, and their lawyers had prayed the court to admit them to bail.

The lawyers had argued that their clients deserved bail because they were innocent and would always appear before the court to defend themselves.


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They further argued that the accused persons had a fixed place of abode and competent people to stand surety for them.

‘Reduce bail sum’

The bail conditions, however, surprised the lawyers, who argued that it was too excessive and pleaded for a variation.

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According to them, per the facts of the case, their clients were only alleged to have taken possession of only GH¢1.9m from the UMB, and therefore, the bail conditions ought to reflect that.

But Mrs Akweley Quaye dismissed the prayer for variation of the bail conditions and adjourned the case to August 28, 2018.

Members of the alleged syndicate

The accused persons include James Akwasi Kwarteng, Paa Kwesi Addo-Kehn, Joseph Kofi Owusu, Ernest Acheampong, Philip Wormenor, Stephen Kofi Tampuri, aka Solomon Matthew, and Michael Nana Yaw Adomako Kuffour.

Others are Joseph Marinnony, Chief Kingsley Chidiebere Ogbuefi, Goodluck Otada, Evans Sellasie Ettoh and Rahman.

The 14 alleged members of the syndicate currently at large are Chris Chukwuma, William Akuffo, Jonathan Nortey Sowah, Mark Asiedu Duah, Stephen Allotey, Theophilus Acquaye and Dennis Kweku Nyarko.

Others are Eric Addo, Prince Akuffo, Samuel Darko Affum, Emmanuel Osei, Christian Kofi Mensah, Collins Amoako Addae and Georgina Mongkuma.

Hacking

It is the case of the prosecution that the syndicate plotted to electronically attack the systems of some banks in the country with the intention of stealing huge sums of money.

 Based on that plot, the prosecution explained that between July 11 and July 20, 2018, members of the syndicate intentionally opened 18 bank accounts with UMB and hacked into the system of the bank.

After hacking into the bank’s system, the syndicate, the prosecution said, diverted GH¢326,120,000 from UMB’s income surplus account into the 18 bank accounts.

Between July 22 and July 23, 2018, the syndicate allegedly managed to withdraw about GH¢1.9m from the 18 accounts via ATM and mobile money.

According to the prosecution, UMB detected the scam and blocked the syndicate from making further withdrawals.

Attempts by the syndicate to withdraw the money from the bank premises led to the arrest of some of its members.

Further investigations led to the arrest of the other members of the syndicate.

UMB assurance

Meanwhile, UMB in a statement released on July 30, 2018, assured its customers, other stakeholders and the general public that it had successfully thwarted the efforts of the hacking syndicate.

“UMB wishes to state that due to the significant infrastructural investment made into the bank’s operational systems, the technical and security teams of our bank were quickly alerted and they moved very swiftly to avert this situation.

“Our bank remains resilient and very committed to working with the security forces to clean the environment of any form of cyber miscreants,’’ the statement said.