Chinese were using three houses

Thursday December 4 2014

This picture taken on December 3, 2014 shows

This picture taken on December 3, 2014 shows one of the houses in Runda where Chinese nationals suspected of engaging in cybercrime were living. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

MAUREEN KAKAH
By MAUREEN KAKAH
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SAMUEL KARANJA
By SAMUEL KARANJA
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The Chinese nationals arrested in Runda, Nairobi, for allegedly running an illegal cyber-command centre operated from three houses.

Neighbours and guards manning the various premises in the posh estate described the foreigners as “very generous” and friendly.

They said they thought the Chinese were contractors.

At the same time, the first group of 37 that appeared in court on Tuesday on allegations of operating an illegal radio station sought to be released from Gigiri Police Station.

Their lawyer, Mr Tom Wachakana, on Thursday pleaded with Mr Justice Luka Kimaru of the High Court to free them on bond pending trial.

Mr Wachakana said that all of them had travel and identification documents, which were allegedly seized by the police.

He argued that there was no compelling evidence that the 37 would abscond trial.

“We all have travel and identification documents, which the police impounded ... We cannot skip trial or interfere with the investigations being conducted,” said Mr Chan Chi Wei in the case documents.

ONE-KILOMETRE RADIUS

The Nation on Thursday established that the 77 foreigners operated from three houses, located within a one-kilometre radius. The houses are now under 24-hour police guard, with the officers saying they had been instructed not to allow anyone into the compounds.

Some of the equipment found by detectives was still inside the houses.

The premises have high perimeter electric fences characteristic of Runda, as well as CCTV cameras at the thick iron gates.

On Wednesday, detectives carried out a raid on one of the houses and arrested 40. They claimed the foreigners were preparing to raid the country’s communication systems using their gadgets.

The Chinese were discovered after a fire broke out in one of the rented houses. One of them was killed.

Police had gone to the house to investigate the incident when they found the group huddled in a room that had the communication equipment.

ICT Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, his Foreign Affairs counterpart Amina Mohamed and Directorate of Criminal Investigation boss Ndegwa Muhoro visited the house on Wednesday.

They said the discovery was a breakthrough in the fight against cybercrime.

The centre, with its modern software, is said to be capable of infiltrating bank accounts, M-Pesa accounts and even ATMs.