The Ghana Prisons Service has confirmed a scam operated from inside the country’s prisons involving prisoners who use smuggled mobile phones in their cells to defraud unsuspecting members of the public.
The prisoners dial numbers randomly and once the call goes through, they pose as old time friends of their victims or high-earning investors looking for partners.
Their victims are then made to transfer various sums of money through mobile money platforms which they cash in the prisons through means that are still unknown
The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Service, Deputy Superintendent of Prisons (DSP) Mr Vitalis Aryeh, told the Daily Graphic that it had come to the attention of the prison authorities that prisoners were using mobile phones to defraud people.
Two prisoners, allegedly caught in the act, are currently being processed for court.
Bread stuffed with dried leaves suspected to be narcotics and mobile phones
DSP Aryeh said items such as mobile phones, alcohol, offensive weapons, explosives and unprescribed drugs that were prohibited in the prisons were smuggled to the convicts by visitors and some corrupt prison officials, contractors working on projects for the service and sometimes the prisoners themselves when they went out to work.
The prohibited items, he said, were found on prisoners during routine checks, random searches in their cells and physical inspection of visitors and the contents of articles they brought to their relatives who were in prison.
He added that the phenomenon was widespread in all the 43 prison establishments in the country but was more prevalent in the 10 central prison establishments where there were more activities.
“The prisons from where we have recently received reports include Ankaful, Nsawam, Kumasi and the Sekondi Prisons,” he said.
Between January and December 2017, DSP Aryeh revealed that four prison officers and 16 visitors were arrested in the Ankaful and Nsawam prisons for allegedly attempting to smuggle contraband items to prisoners.
He said three of the prison officers who were apprehended were currently facing trial. The fourth prison officer, he said, had been dismissed and was in addition being tried in court, while all the visitors caught smuggling had been handed over to the police for prosecution.
To be able to fight the mobile phone scam, DSP Aryeh said the Prisons Service would need mobile phone jammers, instruments used to prevent cellular phones from receiving signals from stations based outside.
In addition, he said, all prison establishments must also be equipped with metal detectors and body scanners.
DSP Aryeh stated that the two prisoners who were allegedly caught in the act have been identified as Joseph Addoa, 30 and Yaw Bio Yakunu , 57, who are currently serving prison sentences at the Ankaful Prison in the Central Region.