Some 422 suspects have been arrested during a raid on illegal lending apps at three separate locations in Accra.
The raid by a joint technical task force comprising the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), Bank of Ghana (BoG) and Cyber Security Authority (CSA) follows painstaking investigations into some 270 cases of cyberbullying, fraud, extortion and abuse of customer data.
Investigations led by the CSA identified 150 unlicenced digital loan application platforms whose owners or administrators resort to the use of death-threats and non-consensual distribution of private messages, images and videos – mainly accessed through authorised permissions granted by unsuspecting victims who patronise those digital platforms.
In an attempt to curb these activities, the task force on Monday, July 10, 2023, with support from the Ghana Police Service, conducted swoops in three different suburbs in the capital where a total of 419 Ghanaians and the three foreign nationals – Chinese, Indian and Pakistani – were arrested.
Addressing journalists in Accra, Director General-CSA, Dr. Albert Antwi-Boasiako, attributed the raid’s success to continuous collaboration among members of the Joint Cybersecurity Committee (JCC).
The committee was set up pursuant to Section 13 of the Cybersecurity Act 2020 (Act 1038) to collaborate with the Authority and the sectors or institutions represented on the Committee or beyond, for the implementation of relevant cybersecurity measures.
“This is a story of action taken by a number of institutions,” Dr. Antwi-Boasiako said, adding: “Information and intelligence gathered from separate investigations conducted by the CSA, BoG and EOCO were shared among members to deepen their understanding of the modus operandi of these illegal digital lending apps, which was to intimidate borrowers ahead of their loan payment dates”.
Additionally, Dr. Antwi-Boasiako said, the investigations uncovered that these illegal lending apps accessed personal data such as messages, contact details, images and videos from the devices of borrowers – which were then used to blackmail them.
“Borrowers were threatened with having their identities published by owners of these lending apps. Such actions are infringements on the protected rights of individuals enshrined in the 1992 Constitution, and equally violate data protection principles provided under section 13 of Ghana’s data protection Act,” he said.
Some 654 mobile phones, 22 laptop computers and about 800 SIM cards were also retrieved during the exercise, disclosed Executive Director-EOCO, COP Maame Yaa Tiwaa Addo.
Reiterating EOCO’s commitment to aggressively monitor and investigate economic and organised crimes committed in the country – and prosecute those offences to recover the proceeds of crime, she said the suspects are currently on bail assisting investigations.
Director of Financial Stability at the BoG, Dr. Joseph France, thanked the task force for working closely to clamp down on “the inimical practices of these illegal lenders – intimidating and abusing defaulting borrowers by sending defaming messages to contacts on the borrowers’ phones, which has caused suicidal tendencies among some of the borrowers”.
He expressed the central bank’s determination to build a robust, resilient and safe digital financial service industry, trusted by both local and international stakeholders. “Together with the EOCO, Cyber Security Authority, Police Service and all other relevant state actors, the Bank of Ghana is determined to rid the space of all illegal service providers,” he stated.
Dr. France added that the BoG has started engaging international platform service providers on the matter: “We are collaborating on a solution to prevent the hosting of unapproved credit apps targetted at the Ghanaian market”.