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'We shut down Safaricom from prison' man tells court

By Paul Ogemba | May 23rd 2017


Mohammed Sani in the dock at a Milimani court during mention of a case where he is charged with counterfeitting USD 600 million. He claimed to be part of a cartel that jammed safaricom network. 22/07/2017 PHOTO BY GEORGE NJUNGE

A foreigner arrested with over US$600 million (Sh70 billion) in fake currency claims he helped hack into the Safaricom network last month.

Mohammed Sani alias Dr Mustafa, from Niger, shocked a court with his claim that the recent Safaricom network outage that triggered panic across the country was planned and executed from his cell at Industrial Area Prison in Nairobi.

A nationwide outage of Kenya's largest mobile phone network provider caused consternation in the country on April 24.

Appeared calm

Mr Sani, who appeared calm and composed in the dock, said the outage was part of the operations of a mobile phone hacking cartel involving hard-core prisoners, rogue police officers and prison warders operating behind prison cells.

"I know everything that happened the day Safaricom shut down; we did it in my prison cell. I have all the evidence and people in prison who are willing to come out as witnesses to support my claims so that they are not seen as baseless allegations," Sani claimed.

The suspect also said police officers smuggled into his cell two laptops, which he used to hack into systems.

According to the suspect, the cartel has been operating behind prison walls until a few days ago when a deal went sour and he decided to make everything public.

Sani's composure during his confession before the magistrate revealed a man of strong convictions. His vivid details of the behind-the-scenes hacking of the Safaricom network left no doubt that it must have been done by tech-savvy persons hidden in the least expected place.

He claimed that in the one and a half years he has been in remand after his application to be released on bail was declined, he has managed to tap, siphon and share Sh2.5 million with police officers who are part of the cartel.

The police, he claimed, offered the hackers protection.

Sani said his threat to disclose what has been happening behind bars landed him in trouble with prison authorities, who have been subjecting him to inhuman treatment, including stripping him naked, forcing him to sleep on wet floors and flogging.

"When the police realised I had no more money to pay them for protection, they started harassing me and subjecting me to inhuman treatment. This was what caused me to go public and tell the court what was really happening in my room," he said.

His testimony left everyone surprised, including Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi, who listened keenly as the suspect described how he was allowed access to a mobile phone in jail.

"The claims you are laying before the court cannot be taken lightly. They are weighty issues that need proper investigation. It would require that the magistrate come to prison to verify them or appoint a court assistant to help you put everything on record," said Mr Andayi.

Sani said he was ready to put everything on record and asked for two days to give the details of mobile money transactions.

The suspect was charged in January 2016 alongside Cameroonian Ousman Ibrahim Bako with being in possession of papers intended to resemble and pass as US dollar currency and Euro currency notes. 

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