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Four persons accused of allegedly hacking MTN’s network, defrauding customers, get N10m bail

By Editor.

Four men, Richard Ironba Edemdem, Samuel Okpapi, Nelson Ojovbo and Bamigbade Olushola, who were arraigned before a Federal High Court, Lagos, for alleged tampering with MTN facilities and defrauding Subscribers to the tune of N37 million, have been granted bail to the tune of N10 million with one surety each.

The four men were arraigned before Justice Mohammed Liman’s court last Wednesday by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday, on offences bordering on four counts charge of conspiracy, alleged unlawfully disabling Double Opt In (DOI) features on a critical MTN Nigeria Communication Ltd Network System and N37 million fraud.

They were accused of committing the offence between 2017 and 2018.

The EFCC alleged that the defendants committed the offences while working as subcontractors providing services to Huawei Technologies Company (Nigeria) Limited, conspired with some other persons to unlawfully manipulate and modify the MTN DOI features for their financial benefits.

DOI feature is a chargeable service to MTN subscribers who wish to register for the service.

The MTN User/Subscriber has to agree to the service by responding to an USSD notification sent to them by SDP (Service Delivery Platform).

When the User subscribes to this service, deductions are made from their air-time balance and the SPs begin to generate their revenue through revenue sharing between MTN and the SPs.

EFCC alleged that the defendants unlawfully modified the DOI in order to unlawfully increase their respective revenue from MTN.

By modifying the system, the defendants fraudulently disabled the D01 and subscribed Users automatically for the services. The Users were consequently charged without their consent.

The offences according to the EFCC’s chief legal officer, Anselem Ozioko, are contrary to sections  27(1)(b), 10 and of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention Etc) Act 2015 and punishable under the same Section of the Act. And section  15 (2)(d) and (6) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as (Amended) and punishable under he some Section of the Act.

The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Following their not guilty pleas, Ozioko asked the court for a trial date and that the defendants be remanded in custody pending the determination of the charges against them.

However, the defendants  lawyers: G. O. Ajila, Seye Demuren and Olumide Esan, told the court that they have filed separate bail applications on behalf of their clients.

The applications they said were filed on Wednesday morning and they were ready to proceed.

But Ozioko insisted that he needed time to respond to each of the applications.

He also asked the court to adjourn the matter to March 4 and 11, 2020, for trial of the defendants.

He particularly asked the court for the dates, because his first witness, a staff of Huawei International will be coming from South Africa to testify in the case.

Upon the submissions made by both parties, the trial judge, Justice Liman remanded the defendants in the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Services (NCS).

The judge also adjourned the matter to March 4 and 11, 2020, for the hearing of the defendants’ commencement of trial.

At the resumed hearing of the defendants’ bail applications on Wednesday, their counsel and the prosecuting counsel, told the court that the business of court today, is for hearing and determination of their bail applications.

After adopting both the bail applications and EFCC’s counter affidavit, Justice Liman granted bail to each of the defendants in the sum of N10 million with one surety.

The judge also ordered that the surety must be present in court at every hearing date and have means of livelihood and a landed property within the court’s jurisdiction.

Justice Liman ordered the the defendants to be remanded in the custody of Nigerian Correctional Centre, pending the time they perfect their bail conditions.