Detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) have arrested eight suspects in a high-profile fraud scheme where telecommunications firm Safaricom lost close to Ksh. 500 million from its M-pesa Fuliza service.
According to the DCI, the suspects, Isaack Kipkemoi, Gideon Rono, Maxwell Ributhu, Gideon Kirui, Moses Rono, Collins Kipyegon, Edwin Cheruiyot, and their alleged mastermind Peter Gitahi were found in possession of thousands of Safaricom and Airtel SIM cards used in the well-choreographed scheme.
Detectives say that Peter Gitahi, the suspected fraud kingpin, had access to the National Registration Bureau database where he obtained information used to register fraudulent national identity numbers that would in turn register SIM cards used in perpetuating the bank fraud activities.
The newly-registered SIM cards would then opt into Fuliza service and build credit scores for a while, ensuring that they could borrow the maximum loan limit. The SIM cards would be discarded, with efforts to reach their “users” proving futile.
The fraud scheme is suspected to have started in January 2020, when more than 123,000 new mobile phone numbers opted into Fuliza and took up loans before switching off permanently. The fund managers reported to the Bank Fraud Investigation Unit (BFIU) after noticing a spike in unpaid Fuliza loans, with the customers being unreachable by any means.
“It is after further investigations that detectives realized that the SIM cards had been registered fraudulently by one of the suspects identified as Peter Gitahi, who is suspected to have access to the National Registration Bureau database, where he develops falsified identity numbers used in the high profile fraud.” The DCI said in a Twitter thread.
Six suspects were arrested in Nakuru county, while Peter Gitahi, the alleged mastermind was arrested in Tras-Nzoia county.
DCI believe the suspects used the proceeds of the crime to fund their lavish lifestyle, acquiring “two brand new Subarus, one Toyota Mark X, a Toyota Probox and two motorbikes for their ease of movement. During the operation, the detectives recovered 14 mobicom phones used in registering MPESA user SIM Cards.”
They were also in possession of six laptops, more than over 40 mobile phones, 7 routers, assorted Safaricom lines, over 1000 Safaricom subscribers’ registration forms, over 200 ATM cards from all major banks, and car agreements among other exhibits.
“Detectives are currently interrogating the suspects for more insights into the high-level fraud before arraigning them in court.”