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Chinese hackers ‘living large’ in cells, say sources

Prison authorities are investigating claims of widespread corruption involving the sale of contraband goods to wealthy remandees at exorbitant prices.

In interviews, the inmates at Industrial Area Prison in Nairobi accused unscrupulous warders of colluding with wealthy remandees to smuggle mobile phones, alcohol, cigarettes and even bhang into the penal institution.

Commissioner of Prisons Isaiah Osugo said he was not aware of the reports but promised to investigate.

“Cases of contraband goods finding their way into our prisons are occasionally witnessed, but it is very difficult to do so today. I cannot rule it out completely, but I can assure you it is not easy. But if it is happening, we will fight it,” he said.

LUXURIOUS LIFESTYLE

In the latest case, the inmates, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, gave the example of a group of Chinese nationals being held at the prison on charges of illegally running a communications system.

They said the foreigners are living a “luxurious lifestyle” with allegations that someone had colluded with warders “to take good care” of them.

“They have taken over this place. They are spending as much as Sh20,000 a day,” said our source.

He further alleged that people thought to be handlers of the Chinese had gone as far as influencing the buying of meat meant for the other inmates at Sh500 per mururu (a two-kilo aluminium container used to serve food) and supply of luxuries such as cigarettes.

A disgruntled inmate claimed of a one-day budget he once saw that included 32 loaves of bread, 15 packets of milk, 24 rolls of tissue paper and 10 tins of margarine, which were to be bought by a warder.

The alleged syndicate, according to our sources, is run by a Chinese man who is also remanded at the facility. The money is usually sent to him through M-Pesa by an associate outside the prison.

Fourteen Chinese out of the at least 70 arrested last month are in one cell while the others are in Block L.

Whereas the rest of the remandees are fed on poorly cooked porridge for breakfast, ugali and sukuma wiki for lunch, and beans with either ugali, githeri or rice for supper—except for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays when they are served pieces of meat— the diet of the Chinese inmates includes milk, bread and soda besides meat.

ALCOHOL SERVED

They also enjoy roast potatoes in between meals, supplied by unscrupulous warders at Sh150 a plate.

The remandees claimed there was a New Year’s Day party, where alcohol was served as the other remandees watched from a distance. The Chinese are said to have difficulty communicating in English, but some of them act as translators.

Dr Ludeki Chweya , a former permanent secretary in the ministry of Home Affairs — which was in charge of prisons —said sometimes such reports are exaggerated.

“It used to happen, but today a lot of our prisons have CCTV cameras and metal detectors to ensure that no contraband goods find their way into our prisons,” he said.

The Chinese were arrested in Nairobi’s Runda estate on December 2 when a house they had rented caught fire.

They were allegedly found in possession of laptops, routers and mobile phones that the prosecution said were connected with the commission, preparation and instigation of serious crimes.

They are liable to 15 years imprisonment or a fine of Sh5 million each if convicted of the charges they are facing.

Cases of well-to-do inmates colluding with unscrupulous warders to lead lavish lifestyles in Kenyan prisons are not new.

International fraudster Ketan Somaia and notorious Naivasha businessman Fai Amario, who has since died, were widely reported to have used their deep pockets to fund luxurious lifestyles when serving time at the Kamiti Maximum Prison for crimes ranging from fraud to murder.

IMPROMPTU RAIDS

Other rich Kenyans who have served time at the facility include Goldenberg scandal architect Kamlesh Pattni and Naivasha large-scale farmer Tom Cholmondeley.

Authorities have routinely conducted impromptu raids at some of the Kenyan prisons to impound contraband goods.

In February last year, one prisoner was seriously injured during violent confrontations between warders and prisoners in a raid to impound contraband goods.

The prisoners resisted the search by attacking the warders with human waste. They also tried to escape by scaling the walls, which prompted the warders to use force.