The 21st century is the century of technology, and the Internet is the biggest engine of technology. Businesses, individuals and nations are taking advantage of the emerging components of technology for various strategic and business reasons. Despite the numerous advantages technology and the Internet have brought to humanity, there are numerous acts, conducts or omissions that are prohibited and criminalised by the law-makers. In this write-up, I take a closer look at the subject of cybercrimes in Ghana, with emphasis on eight (8) crucial cybercrimes and the respective punishments I think every Ghanaian in business should know about.
What is a Cybercrime?
Cybercrime is defined as the use of cyberspace, Information Technology or electronic facilities to commit a crime. The term ‘cyberspace’ is the connected network of information technology infrastructure comprising telecom networks, the Internet, computer networks, information systems, information processing and control systems, and databases etc. wherein users conduct social activities without being limited by space and time.
A key term we must understand in ‘cybercrime’ is the term ‘crime’. A crime is any act, conduct or omission that is expressly prohibited by a written law with prescribed punishment. From the definitions of ‘crime’ and cyberspace’, we can, in simple terms, say that cybercrime is any act, conduct or omission prohibited by a written law of Ghana and for which that written law prescribes punishments for such acts, conduct or omissions on the Internet or any information technology infrastructure. I explain in the following paragraphs the eight (8) acts, conducts or omissions which are punishable as cybercrimes in Ghana:
Which Eight (8) Acts, Conducts or Omissions are Punishable as Cybercrimes in Ghana[i]?
- Using electronic process or procedure to unlawfully take another person’s thing in cyberspace – Stealing
It is a cybercrime to dishonestly take another person’s thing in cyberspace. For purposes of this crime, a ‘thing’ is defined by the law as any electronic-related matter which results in the loss of property, identity, electronic payment medium, information, electronic record and/or any related matter whether tangible or intangible wherever located on any computer network. Persons found guilty of this cybercrime can be sentenced to prison for a period of not less than ten (10) years.
- Publishing information relating to fortune-telling, palmistry, astrology or the use of any subtle craft to deceive a member of the public – Charlatanic Advertisement
It is a cybercrime to publish in an electronic record or on a website information relating to fortune-telling, palmistry, astrology or the use of any subtle craft to deceive a member of public. The editors, publishers, proprietors and printers found guilty of this offence shall be liable to pay fine.
- Obtaining electronic payment medium falsely
It is a cybercrime in Ghana to make or cause to be made, either directly or indirectly, a false representation to procure the issue of an electronic payment medium personally or for another person. The punishment for this cybercrime is either payment of a fine not more than five thousand penalty units or a prison term of not more than ten years, or to both.
- Fraudulent electronic fund transfer
It is a cybercrime in Ghana for a person who without authority, in the course of an electronic fund transfer, uses his/her personal or financial record or credit account numbers or electronic payment medium of another with intent to defraud an issuer or a creditor; or who obtains money, goods, services, or anything fraudulently. Persons found guilty of this cybercrime shall be punished to pay a fine of not more than five thousand penalty units or go to prison for a maximum of ten (10) years, or to both.
- Unauthorised access or interception
It is an offence for any person to intentionally access or intercept an electronic record without authority or permission. Persons found guilty of this offence shall pay a fine of not more than two thousand five hundred penalty units or serve a term of imprisonment not more than five years, or both.
- Unauthorised interference with an electronic record
It is also a cybercrime in Ghana for a person to intentionally and without authority interfere with an electronic record in a way that causes the electronic record to be modified, destroyed or rendered ineffective. The punishment for this offence is payment of a fine not more than two thousand five hundred penalty units or imprisonment for not more than five years, or both.
- Buying or selling information of a child’s identity to facilitate an unlawful sexual activity – Cyberstalking of a child
It is an offence – classified as cyberstalking a child – for a person to use a computer online service, an Internet service or a local Internet bulletin board service or any other electronic device to compile, transmit, publish, reproduce, buy, sell, receive, exchange or disseminate the name, telephone number, electronic mail address, residence address, picture, physical description, characteristics or any other identifying information on a child in furtherance of an effort to arrange a meeting with the child for the purpose of engaging in sexual intercourse, sexually explicit conduct, or unlawful sexual activity. Persons found guilty of these offences are punishable to a term of imprisonment between five years and fifteen years.
- Seeking to Gain Money by Distribution of Sexually Explicit conduct of another person – sexual extortion
It is an offence – classified as sexual extortion – for a person to threaten distribution by post, email or text; or transmit by electronic means or otherwise, a private image or moving images of the other person engaged in sexually explicit conduct, with the specific intent to:
- Harass, threaten, coerce, intimidate or exert any undue influence on the person; especially to extort money or other consideration, or to compel the victim to engage in unwanted sexual activity.
- Actually extort money or other consideration, or compel the victim to engage in unwanted sexual activity.
‘An intimate image’ here includes any depiction in a way that the genital or anal region of another person is bare or covered only by underwear; or the breasts below the top of the areola, that is either uncovered or clearly visible through clothing. Persons found guilty of this offence are liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment between ten years and twenty-five years.
It is my belief that knowing about these cybercrimes will empower each of us in one business or another to prevent their commission or minimise the risk of becoming a victim of them. As the saying goes, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Therefore, you will not be pardoned if you commit any of these acts, conducts or omissions on the basis that you did not know them to be crimes in Ghana. Hence, the first step to not becoming a victim is to know that they are crimes punishable under Ghanaian law.
[i] The cybercrimes discussed in this article are from the Electronic Transactions Act 2008 (Act 772), Cybersecurity Act 2020 (Act 1038), and Criminal and Other Offences Act 1960 (Act 29).
The writer is a Legal Intern at The Law Office of Elisa Kumadey