The death of a Romanian citizen working for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s 2013 campaign opened the door for Christopher Wylie to join Cambridge Analytica, the British data mining firm accused of influencing the 2017 Kenyan elections, the 28-year-old whistle-blower has said.
It was after the death of Dan Mureşan, the son of former Romania Agriculture Minister Ioan Avram Muresan, that Wylie, who has since lifted the lid on potentially illegal activities the data firm used to influence voters, was hired to the firm.
“I did not know this at the time when I joined but my predecessor, he was working in Kenya for president Uhuru Kenyatta, and he was just found dead in a hotel room,” he said, refusing to state how the Romanian died.
“That is why they had a vacancy. I can’t say he was murdered… He died in his hotel room.”
Wylie was speaking at an event co-hosted by the global Byline Investigates in London and the Frontline Club, a private members club in Britain, in an event streamed live on Facebook.
Before making the revelation about the death of his predecessor, Wylie told of bullying and a toxic working environment where some ideas, especially those that their boss did not agree with, were shot down.
“The Romanian citizen was working with a British telecommunications company, being in Kenya for a while. He had not yet registered his presence on Kenyan territory with the Romanian diplomatic mission,” the Foreign ministry told Bucharest Herald in September 10, 2012.
The Romanian paper said at the time of his death, Mureşan was working for a “British political consultancy firm which developed election strategies in various states of south Africa, south-east Asia and eastern Europe”, a description that has now come to emerge as that of Cambridge Analytica.
After the Wylie whistleblowing, British television Channel 4 News released an explosive investigation piece in which Cambridge Analytica officials brag of how they influenced the Kenyan election in 2013 and 2017.
In the secret Channel 4 investigative video, the firm brags that it “rebranded the (Jubilee) Party twice, wrote their manifesto, done to rounds of 50,000 or so surveys, as well as writing all its speeches.”
Cambridge Analytica has since suspended its chief executive Alexander Nix, whom they said did not, in the Channel 4 News video, depict the values the company stands for.
President Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party has denied working with the firm in both its 2013 and 2017 campaigns, but party vice-chairman David Murathe, without expounding, on Tuesday said the party had paid for “branding” in the 2017 presidential election by SCL, an affiliate of consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
Wylie has also told the Guardian and the Observer of how Cambridge Analytica mined profiles of 50 million Facebook users in the United States, analysed them, and targeted messages aimed to sway them to vote for President Donald Trump.