The arrest of the administrator of the Empressleak website, said to be a revenge pornographic website administered from Ghana has been confirmed by the Cyber Crime Unit of the Ghana Police.
The suspect, Anderson Ofosu Hene Amin alias Mario G., aged 35 years, has been accused by the police of using the website to publish the nude pictures and videos of people and extorting money from them.
He was arrested in a joint operation by the Cyber Crime Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department and the Ministry of Communications.
He is said to have operated the website for the past six years from his home in Osino, in the Eastern Region.
He has been charged with the offence of obscenity, child ponogragraphy, extortion of money and money laundering.
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Graphic Online’s Emelia Ennin Abbey reports from the press briefing that Anderson Ofosu Hene Amin was arrested on July 30, 2020.
Amin, according to the police, was arrested whilst he was in the act of uploading nude pictures and videos of some victims onto the website.
It took six months to arrest the website administrator after the police had mounted surveillance unknown to him and and his accomplices.
He has been charged with the offence of obscenity, child pornography, extortion of money and money laundering.
The police have since mounted a search for his accomplices who are suspected to be spread across Ghana and allegedly scout for the nude pictures and videos of victims after which they blackmail the victims and extort money from them.
Victims are made to pay between GH¢500 and GH¢2000 through a mobile money account before their pictures are pulled down from the website.
However because the videos and pictures might have been downloaded by some people already, the police said the victims after making the payment continue to receive threatening phone calls from others suspected to be the accomplices of Amin who demand more money else get the pictures published online again.
The accomplices allegedly build acquaintances with the victims through social media platforms including dating sites using fake identities.
They then coerce the victims to share nude pictures or videos of their sexual acts which are secretly copied.
Briefing journalists in Accra on Monday, August 10, 2020 on the recent cyber crime cases recorded in Ghana, the Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said the operation was carried out by the National Cyber Security Centre of the Ministry in collaboration with the CID and the National Cyber Security Technical Working Group after a female Senior High school student below 18 years reported a case of her pictures being published on the website on January 6, 2020.
Investigations, she said established that the website was known for publishing child pornography and adult sexual content and it had 600,000 monthly users from Ghana, Nigeria and the United Kingdom.
The Cyber Criminal and Cyber Security Incident reporting Point of Contact, she said had since its establishment in 2019 received numerous reports on cyber crime and cyber Security incidents from the public.
Some of the cases she said related to publication of non-consensual intimate images or extortion, online impersonation, online fraud, online blackmail, website defacement among others.
The Director General of CID of the Ghana Police Service, Commissioner of Police (COP) Mr Isaac Ken Yeboah said between the period after the lockdown and July, victims lost a total of GH¢420,000 to the perpetrators behind the crime.
He said the operation was carried out in collaboration with the Center at the Ministry after the two institutions recorded similar trends of cases from victims.
In January surveillance was mounted on the website and “after six months of intensive investigations and intelligence gathering the team located the administrator of the website and he was arrested at his residence at Osino in the Eastern Region while he was in the act of uploading nude pictures and videos of some victims.”
The CID Director General said a number of digital devices used by Anim to perpetrate his act were retrieved and are being subjected to forensic tests to assist with investigations.
He urged all victims to report to the Cyber Crime Unit of the CID to assist with investigations and cautioned persons involved in the act of taking nude pictures and videos from victims to desist from the acts.
The head of the Cyber Crime Unit of the CID, Dr Gustav Yankson said in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic the unit observed a surge in cyber offenses as many people resorted to the use of cyberspace for their social and economic activities.
Some of the offences recorded within the period, he said included child pornography, publication of obscene materials, extortion related to nude pictures and videos, shopping scams and mobile money scams.
However, he said extortion related to the publication of nude pictures and videos on the said website was the highest number of cases recorded within the past five months.
Investigations by the police, he said showed that people resorted to the use of cyber space to spice up their relationships during the COVID-19 lockdown period but during the post lockdown period the images and videos shared between lovers and couples landed in the public domain and criminals took advantage to extort money from their victims.