Mulot cyber criminals use new tricks to evade arrest

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

The notorious mobile phone money transfer fraudsters operating from Mulot trading centre that straddles Bomet and Narok counties have scattered in a bid to avoid police radar.

This follows sustained operations by sleuths from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) that has led to arrest and prosecution of several suspects from the area who have defrauded thousands of innocent people of their hard-earned money. 

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

The suspects have set up satellite operating bases mostly in Chepalungu Constituency, Bomet County and are mainly found in Chebunyo, Sigor, Siongiroi and Olbutyo trading centres — a rural set up that provides them with an ideal environment to undertake their criminal activities. 

Some have, out of the police operations in conjunction with mobile phone service providers, relocated to Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia , Kiambu, Nairobi, Kajiado and Machakos counties where they have been arrested lately. 

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

The arrest of 10 suspects, popularly known as swappers, at Olbutyo trading centre in Bomet on Saturday is only a tip of the iceberg. The network of cybercriminals hides in rural areas, which has become a safe haven for them to thrive.

When police stormed their hideout, the suspects had 14 unused SIM cards, nine Safaricom used SIM cards and 11 national identity cards suspected to have been stolen.

"They had exercise books filled with names of people, mobile numbers, SIM card pins, M-Pesa balances, Fuliza limits and Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) M-Pesa loan limits,” a police report seen by the Nation states. 

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

The seized books had names and dates of birth of the SIM card holders, their home of origin among other details which police have kept as exhibits for the case.

Chepalungu Sub-County Police Commander Phantom Analo said the suspects were arrested at Olbutyo on Saturday morning following a tip off from members of the public.

"Police arrested the suspects in their operation base following a tip off that was received from members of the public. The matter is under investigation and the suspects will be processed for plea taking in court" Mr Analo said. 

The latest raid has the highest number of suspects caught at once by the police in the fight as illegal transfer of money from unsuspecting people’s bank accounts.

Cases of swappers operating in the area have risen in the recent past despite a crackdown by DCI officers.

Mulot trading centre has been branded as the unlikely home of the online money transfer swindlers in the East African region.

It is claimed that the suspects are working in cahoots with employees of mobile phone service providers, financial institutions and the police.

Once the suspects obtain the registration details of their targets, they transfer all the money in their bank or mobile phone accounts, and proceed to take loans from online money lending institutions and withdraw them.

A number of cases are pending in court after suspects were arrested in various parts of the country.

But many of the cases have been dropped after the victims failed to come forward to record statements with the police.

Most of the people engaged in the criminal enterprise are young people who did not progress with their education past Form Four. The ringleaders are said to be university dropouts.

A high number of university students from the region have died under mysterious circumstances after they went missing from their hostels with pointers from the police that they were involved in criminal activities.

Some of them have been found with huge amounts of money whose source cannot be explained. The students often lead a life way beyond their means and their parents are completely in the dark of their shady dealings.

“The truth of the matter is that some of the parents whose children have gone missing only come to find out after their lifeless bodies are found dumped by the roadside, at their residential housing units or floating on rivers,” a senior DCI officer who has been involved in a number of the investigations told “Nation” in an interview.

He said most of the students had been lured to the criminal activities by those who had dropped out of school in bid to make quick money through illegal means.

Following the government’s plan to buildconstruct a multi-billion shilling software development hub in Mulot, a number of them have relocated for fear of being arrested.

President William Ruto has directed the Bomet County Government under Governor Hillary Barchok to secure 100 acres for the construction of the facility which will cost Sh100 billion.

“I want you to move with speed and buy land where the facility will be constructed as we seek to bring on board international players in the ICT sector to set up a software development factory in Mulot,” Dr Ruto told Governor Barcchok on January 15 this year.

Mulot has gained a dubious distinction as a result of the criminal activities. Commuters travelling along the Bomet- Narok highway often switch off their phone to avoid falling prey.

"We want to ensure that youths in Mulot put their talents to good use instead of engaging in cybercrime," the President said.

 Dr Ruto said that the governemnt was keen on mainstreaming ICT in economic recovery in the country and creating job opportunities for the youth.

“We have secured 50 acres for the ICT project in Mulot and we are in the process of getting a title deed to enable the government channel funds for the project,” Prof Barchok told the President last month in Sotik Constituency.

On March 8, 2021, 2,000 SIM cards and 15 mobile phones were recovered in Nairobi's Lumumba drive. Seven suspects were arrested. Earlier, in July 2018, police seized 2,160 unused SIM cards and 44 used ones from suspects.

Suspects engaging in cybercrime can easily be identified in nightclubs by their dressing and lavish spending, police said.