EOCO, telcos, banks team up to fight organized crime
The Deputy Head of Legal and Prosecutions at the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), Leo Antony Siamah, has said that in the investigation of serious organised crime in the country, EOCO had come across a gang of such criminals operating in the Assin Fosu area.
He said the group operated in a very structured manner, with a hierarchy of command in fraud activities and with some contacts in the banking and telecommunications sectors.
With their collaborators, they fraudulently hacked into peoples Subscriber Identity Model (sim) and accounts and were able to fraudulently dispose of funds of individuals.
Mr Siamah said as a result of that, the EOCO was in engagement with MTN and VODAFONE, with a memorandum of understanding between the former and itself for information sharing in 24 hours for court processes.
Additionally, EOCO was engaging with some banks for background investigations into some members of staff, as well as engagements with them to enhance their security measures.
He was speaking at a media capacity building workshop on Combatting Serious Organised Crime (SOC) During Elections in Accra last Wednesday.
The meeting brought together about 50 journalists as well as some civil society organisations to engage on serious organised crime and its possible impact on the country’s elections if not nipped in the bud.
According to Mr Siamah, organised crime groups were so sophisticated nowadays, and were also investing in equipment to aid in their activities.
Apart from that, organised crime groups were embedding themselves in society to cover their tracks.
He said some of them engaged particular lawyers to represent them or set up their own law firms to represent them in investigations or prosecutions when caught.
On the other hand, some lawyers had made it their avowed aim to represent those involved in organised crime just for the incentives.
He said setting up law firms was one of the avenues used by serious organised criminals to execute their agenda, hence the attention of EOCO on that.
Other avenues, he said, were legitimate retail and wholesale businesses, accounting firms and investment and other money laundering schemes.
Causes of organised crime
Some of the causes of organised crime is deprivation.
This he explained as a major contributor to the increasing crime rates.
“People resort to notorious activities when they are deprived of their basic rights since that impedes their means to obtain a livelihood in a conventional and honest way”.
“They have limited options and are already at a disadvantaged position in society that they choose to make money and sustain themselves through hook or crook. This usually means engaging in criminal activities,” Mr Siamah added.
He added that the justice system was another major contributor to crimes.
He said when people believed that they were not given their due and were unfairly treated by the system itself, they harbour feelings of resentment towards it and start to rebel.
“This involves them engaging in criminal activities and doing the opposite of what is expected of them,” he said.
Another cause of organised crime is the lack of employment opportunities, which he says affects developing and developed countries alike.
Mr Siamah said countries with high rates of economic deprivation tend to witness higher crime rates than other countries.
He said when people do not have the means to secure a living in the right ways, they invest their time in criminal activities since they are not only an easy means to get what they want but does not require other prerequisite talents.
From sections 200 A and 200 B of Act 849 of 2012 of the Criminal and Other Offences Act 29 of 1960 as Amended and from the Economic and Organised Crime Act, 2010 (Act 804), Mr Siamah explained to journalists what serious organised crimes were, and the particular groups that crime related to.
Other laws relating to the crime was Section 63 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2020 (Act 1044).
Detailing some feature of serious organised crime, he said, they were backed by an ideology (or lack of it), groups engaging in that had a structure/hierarchy, they had continuity in their operations, were characterised by violence of threats of force.
For the types of serious organised crime, Mr Siamah listed money laundering and its related crimes of human and people trafficking, prohibited cyber activities, tax fraud, corruption and related offences as well as illegal mining.
Others were sexual exploitation, illicit arms and trafficking, smuggling and terrorism.
Mr Siamah said EOCO was currently expanding its engagements with civil society organisations, which include the media to sensitise all to serious organised crime.
He said last year, the institution had engaged second and third cycle institutions on the subject matter for the right awareness creation for citizens to actively be aware and know the channels to ward off such activities.
He said as elections approached, there was the possibility of unexplained resources from organised criminals to influence outcomes.