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EFCC quizzes Starcomm, Multilinks over 419 calls

Posted by By Wisdom Patrick, Senior Correspondent, Lagos on 2005/06/17 | Views: 1010 |

EFCC quizzes Starcomm, Multilinks over 419 calls


Top officials of two Private Telephone Operators (PTOs), Starcomms and Multilinks have been quizzed by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged use of their networks by conmen to defraud Nigerians.

Top officials of two Private Telephone Operators (PTOs), Starcomms and Multilinks have been quizzed by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged use of their networks by conmen to defraud Nigerians.

A competent source at the Lagos office of the Commission told Daily Independent that innocent Nigerians have lost an estimated N2.3billion to fraudsters who specialise in swindling their unsuspecting victims through threat calls and faxed scam letters to their overseas and local clients through the networks of the two PTOs.

And from far away Bauchi, seven more suspects including the Commissioner for Finance and the Permanent Secretary of the ministry were picked up by operatives of the EFCC last weekend in connection with the recent N280 million scam rocking the various departments.

But the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Bauchi state has cautioned Governor Ahmadu Mu'azu to thread softly with the ongoing probe of civil servants over the N280 million theft.

According to the EFCC official, the action of the two communication companies has not really helped matters as several efforts to get the companies’ officials to clarify issues had not been well received.

The companies’ officials are reported to have argued that it was not their duty to monitor the use to which their subscribers put their phones.

They may have been hiding under the non-existence of a cyber crime law in the country that should compel network operators to disclose the content of information that pass through their networks.

The Presidential Cyber crime Group in collaboration with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is still working on such legislation to conform to practices in other countries.

At a recent workshop on the cyber crime legislation network operators questioned who should bear the cost of storing and forwarding the information content to crime prosecutors who request for them. The law when enacted is expected to answer all the queries of stakeholders

But unimpressed by the arguments of the PTOs, EFCC officials had to drag some of the companies’ officials to the Commission’s Lagos office to answer queries on the ownerships of such telephone lines used by the trickstars. They were released after they had made statements.

Also the newly completed Duplex of one the conmen located somewhere around the Lekki area of Lagos has been seized, the official said.

The EFCC source stated that the conmen who operate as a syndicate make telephone calls to their unsuspecting victims, telling them their relatives have been hospitalised and that the sick person needs to undergo one operation or the other in which a certain Good Samaritan has already out-spent his meager income.

Many, according to the EFCC official, have fallen victim to such pranks.

A competent EFCC source in Abuja told Daily Independent in a telephone interview that the second round of arrest of the Bauchi state officials followed confessions made by some other top shots. According to the source, the latest on the list include the state Commissioner for Finance and the Permanent Secretary in the ministry.

A breakdown of those arrested include a staff of the state water board, two from the treasury, and three from the Ministry of Information. Our source indicated that the fraud emanated from the Information ministry.

Although some of them were granted bail Tuesday, our source said they were made to go through very tedious interrogation. He also said 61 officials of the state have been penciled down for questioning, still in connection with the scam.

The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mohammed Abdullahi, could not be reached, but the commissioner for Information, Ibrahim Zailani confirmed the development.

Reacting to the arrest of about 30 civil servants in connection with the scam,NLC Chairman Ilyasu Zwall Bauchi said the arrests could open up ``a can of worms''.

Zwall noted that unlike at the national level, the ongoing probe in the state concentrated on civil servants.

He said: `We have our reservations on the issue. Civil servants carry out directives and could not have done all these things without directives.

``At the end of the day, we may be opening up a can of worms”.

He however said NLC will not condone corruption and illegality, adding:``but we want to see a situation whereby everybody is given fair hearing.''

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.