KAMPALA — Buganda Road Grade One Magistrate’s Court has remanded seven people on six charges related to defrauding unsuspecting customers of Airtel Uganda Limited.
The suspects are businessmen Emmanuel Zziwa, Kateregga John, Amos Mabirizi and Mugisha Henry a house broker.
The others are Mugisha Fred a barber, Mpala Musa, a driver and Ssempijja Derrick Wangi a businessman in Najjanankubi.
The suspects are all residents of Najjanankubi and Namasuba.
The suspects appeared before Buganda Road Grade One Magistrate, Marion Mangeni on Friday afternoon.
Court heard that the accused persons and others still at large attempted to secure unfair and unlawful gain when they disguised as Airtel Money officials to call several Airtel customers with the intent to steal their money.
Court also heard that the accused persons were in possession of stolen mobile phones and simcards, the majority of which were registered in the names of their victims.
According to the prosecution, the suspects obtained the simcards and phones of their victims unlawfully.
The suspects were also charged with conspiracy to commit a felony, which they allegedly committed between March 22 and August 4, 2021 within Kampala and Wakiso districts.
Prosecutions also told the court that the accused persons with intentions to defraud used an Airtel Money application and sent a code to the victims after, which they called them on their numbers masquerading as Airtel employees involved in a system upgrade.
They instructed their victims to read the codes sent on their phone numbers, which they used to get access to their mobile money account and unlawfully transferred money to three other numbers.
The accused pleaded not guilty to the charges prompting the magistrate to send them to Kitalya Government Prison until September 6 and 7.
Mr. Abdul-sallam Waiswa the Head Legal at Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) who led the prosecution said investigations into the matter were still ongoing.
He urged consumers to be wary of criminals attempting to scam people out of funds using mobile money platforms, having recorded an increase in cases especially during the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.
He also advised parents to talk to their children about the dangers associated with theft and encourage them to engage in developmental projects.
“Parent and guardians need to guide their people to desist from participating in fraud. These offences can cause some to be sentenced to upto 10 years,” Mr. Waiswa said, adding that breaches of the fast-growing mobile money system does not only discredits the sector but also plunges efforts to drive up financial inclusion in Uganda.
A majority of Ugandans have no formal bank account and rely on mobile money for its convenience.
In some rural areas it is the only feasible option.
Mobile money payments are used in agriculture, energy, health and education, among other sectors.
Waiswa asked members of the public to report these case to authorities but also be available to testify when called as a witnesses.
Mr. Waiswa said UCC is collaborating with mobile operators and anti-fraud companies in an attempt to tackle the issue.
The Uganda Police Annual Crime and Road Safety Report of 2019 showed more than UGX 41 billion was lost to criminals through cyber crimes including swapping SIM cards and hacking digital financial accounts.