Alphonce Mutuku Musyoka, 26 was listening to music on the afternoon of 7th March when several plainclothes policemen walked in. The third year student at Technical University of Kenya was stunned when they arrested his elder brother Alex Mutunga Mutuku, 28 from their flat in Nairobi’s Roysambu estate. ‘I was left wondering what the hell was happening,’ he told me on phone on Sunday. ‘They never told us where they took him, we were left in darkness until we followed up.’ He says they disconnected and took away every gadget with a memory in the apartment, including the TV and his laptop which had an ongoing school project.
Two weeks later, Alex was charged with electronic fraud contrary to section 84b of the Kenya Information and Communications Act. Prosecutors accuse him of fraudulently causing the loss of Sh3,985,663,858 from the Kenya Revenue Authority between March 2015 and March 2017 by interfering with the institution’s computer systems. ‘I would call it a minor offence by they have put in the Sh4 billion figure to make it look major,’ his lawyer Brian Mutoro explained to me. ‘The offence would attract a maximum sentence of 3 years or a maximum fine of Sh300,000 if found guilty.’
Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi’s court was told that several electronic gadgets including mobile phones, computers, hard drives, digital video recorders and servers were seized in the raid on his house. Reports claimed that his arrest followed a ‘multi-agency security operation’ in Nairobi following a tip-off that banks and other institutions were losing cash through suspicious transactions. In his first court arraignment, Alex was alongside 7 other ‘hackers’ but his lawyers say he doesn’t know them.
‘I’ve lived under the same roof with my brother, how could a billionaire live in a house whose rent is less than Sh20,000 in Roysambu?’ poses Alphonce. He is studying for a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology and Earth Observation and has become the link between his brother and the public. In a defiant handwritten 800-word missive from remand at Industrial Area, he pushed back at the billionaire label especially after his past Facebook posts during international trips went viral. ‘Those big cajunas at KRA looted the cash and then in a smoke-filled room, smoking their cubans – forgive my imagination, it probably was an office- decided this,’ he wrote. ‘I have NEVER worked at KRA nor do I know anyone who works there. If I did then I do not believe I’d have queued all those hours renewing my license or transferring my bike ownership. Those queues are just life draining.’
Alphonce, ever the supportive little brother, says Alex does not even own a car and only has his beloved motorbike that features in so many of his Facebook posts. The billionaire hacker narrative has acquired a mythical quality with claims of his exceptional computer skills, stories of previous cases involving NIC Bank and Safaricom as well as plenty of urban legend. ‘My bro had second class upper division, from UoN not first class. What I know is that he does programming and Google Play applications, that is what he does for a living,’ says Alphonce.
Oddly, KRA is not one of the complainants in the case and the authority is not even listed on the charge sheet. The Sh4 billion question is how so much money was purportedly lost by the taxman without any alarm getting raised until now. Even if Alex did in fact hack KRA, there is little chance that he found money to steal as one would within a bank’s systems. Experts point out that such a hack would more likely tamper with tax return records of major companies or high net-worth individuals in exchange for monetary compensation. A simpler explanation would be that Sh4 billion was not necessarily stolen from KRA but the activities of the hacker or hackers led it to lose a similar amount in taxes it was owed.
If Alphonce is as smart as the tales claim, why would we show off his wealth on social media instead of erasing any trace of his existence from the internet? The inconsistencies are too many to list but it is only a spectacularly foolish hacker who steals billions of shillings, brags about it on social media, leaves a mountain of evidence behind and begs for bail money. I have never met the man and I am by no means suggesting that he is innocent but this story just does not add up. This is either an elaborate coverup or a heist of epic proportions just took place right under our nose and nobody is ready to take responsibility for it. We need so much more information than is currently available so all the parties attached to this case better start talking and fast.
PS: Alex was denied bail on Monday 28th March and will remain in custody for another 40 days to allow for investigations to be completed.