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Asians ‘hackers’ were on 30-day tourist visas

The group of Asians who were caught allegedly operating an illegal cyber-command centre came into Kenya on a one-month visa.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said the 77 came in as tourists.

She told a parliamentary committee it was not clear how the foreigners, who were living in a house in the upmarket Runda Estate, managed to stay longer than their visas allowed.

“They came in as tourists for 30 days. If they wanted to extend their stay, they should have applied for the necessary permits … but nobody followed up on what they were doing in the country,” she said.

TRAUMATISED

The CS, however, said the owner of the house where they were living was partly to blame for not monitoring his tenants.

“I am very traumatised that 77 people could stay in a house without anyone suspecting anything,” she told the Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations.

She said when she went to the house, she was shocked to find mattresses all over the floor.

“They were there for one year and the landlord said he had never been there…the windows had no curtains,” she said.

The group was discovered by Directorate of Criminal Investigations officers after a fire at the house killed one of them.

Hi-tech equipment capable of disrupting the country’s communications system, infiltrate bank accounts, the M-Pesa network and ATMs was found on the premises.

The CS said law enforcement agencies were still investigating to ascertain whether they were targeting Kenya or another country.

“At this point, nobody knows what they were doing here,” she told the MPs.

SIPHONED MONEY

The matter came before the committee following a question by Wajir South MP Abdullahi Diriye how the foreigners, many of them Chinese, operated the centre for so long without detection and whether they might have siphoned money from banks and M-Pesa.

The CS said the government was working closely with the Chinese embassy to get to the bottom of the matter.

Committee chairperson Samuel Chepkonga said he was happy the Chinese government was cooperating.