Eight young men have been charged with stealing Sh449.6 million from NCBA Bank Plc through a mobile overdraft facility popularly known as Fuliza.
Peter Gitahi Wambui, Isaac Kipkemoi, Moses Rono, Collins Kipyego, Maxwell Njamba, Edwin Kipkorir, Gideon Kipkirui and Gideon Kipkoech appeared before a Nairobi court Monday and denied a total of 13 counts.
The charges include stealing, conspiracy to steal, engaging in organised criminal activities, and possession of stolen property, including identity cards and motor vehicles.
Minutes before they were charged, the eight had been released on a cash bail of Sh200,000 each and asked to report to the investigating officer every Saturday. However, the prosecution took them back to the court, charged them and opposed their release on bond, saying the amount involved was huge.
Charges against two other suspects were dropped after investigations revealed they were not involved.
The charges stated that they jointly conspired with others not before the court to steal Sh449,647,200 from NCBA Bank. They allegedly committed the offence between January 1 and July 4, 2022.
The court heard that the suspects were arrested in Nakuru and Kitale for stealing the money with no intention of repaying the money.
Mr Gitahi, who was arrested in Kitale, was also found in possession of 14 Safaricom registering machines (MoBiGo) and 10 identity cards.
Mr Kipkemoi was allegedly found in possession of 760 SIM cards, Mr Njamba had 2,014, while Mr Kipkorir had 281, which the police said were for purposes of stealing.
While seeking to detain the suspects for 14 days last week, the police revealed that over 123,000 mobile phone subscribers joined Fuliza and borrowed loans between January and July 2022 and thereafter switched off their SIM cards.
Their lawyer Ham Lagat asked the court to free the accused persons on bond because the offence is bailable. He said many of the accused persons are students and have no intention of running away after being freed.
The court will decide whether to release them on bond on Wednesday, February 15.