Airtel SL has rejected requests by the Sierra Leone police for call records related to fraud allegedly occurring on the telecommunications company's money transfer service.
The police this week said that the company has not complied with requests for subscriber call information. The data is needed for investigations into scams carried out via Airtel Money Transfer, according to Morie Lengor, the director of Crime Services and the country's Trans-national Organised Crime Unit.
There is no correlation, however, between the call records requested and the SMS messages on which money transfers are based, according to Olayemi Jinadu, head of Airtel Money Transfer in Sierra Leone. The service has not recorded any incidents of fraud since it was introduced last year in June, he said.
"Airtel Money Transfer has nothing to do with call records," stressed Gerald Cole, head of legal affairs at Airtel SL, at a press conference Wednesday.
In addition, Airtel has an issue with divulging customer call information since the company considers such data to be private, Cole said. Cole pointed out that the country's constitution protects the privacy of customers' communications.
"The issue of confidentiality on communication according to the constitution guarantees what you say and who you communicate with," Cole noted. "It is a right to protect and get the consent of the party before disclosing the information. In certain cases, the police need to go through the due process of the law by writing to the regulatory body NATCOM, which will in turn write the mobile company to track down needed information."
Cole also noted that NATCOM's license agreement states that information supplied by customers or by third parties is not to be disclosed without written consent except for information requested by the licensor or backed by an order from the High Court.
Jinadu added that the telco adheres to international security practices, including message encryption, in the 17 countries where money transfer services are in operation. System security is also ensured by the use of customer PIN codes, due diligence carried out on customers by the telco, and anti-money laundering, money-transfer limits set by the Central Bank of Sierra Leone.