Several Kenyans, Rwandans and a Ugandan arrested in Rwanda for hacking Equity Bank have been handed eight-year jail terms and fined Rwf56 million (about $55,600 million).
The group-11 Kenyans, 11 Rwandans and a Uganda-was arrested in October 2019 by the Rwandan Investigation Bureau, while trying to hack into the Equity Bank computers to steal cash.
Regional security teams had trailed the gang linked to bank hacking attempts in Kenya and Uganda and had notified Rwandan officials when they set up shop there.
The Kenyans are Dedan Muchoki Muriuki, Samuel Wachira Nyuguto, Kinyua Erickson Macharia, Godfrey Gachiri Githinji, Eric Dickson Njagi Mutegi, Reuben Kirogothi Mwangi, Damaris Njeri Kamau and Steve Maina Wambugu.
The Rwandans are Kayitana Julias, Kagabo Robert, Kabera Seth, Rutaboba David, Dukundimana Jean Claude, Ngabitsinze Eri, Kankunda Sareh, Amini Fabrice, Uwingen Eye Médiatrice, Uwiringiyimana James, Katabogama Abel
All the 22 suspects were on July 2 convicted of criminal mischief or misdemeanor, computer access to information intended to commit a crime, change of computer information or network, unauthorized computer access and stealing.
Officials said the group had crossed the border into Rwanda in October 2019 after tormenting banks in Uganda and Kenya.
They were also directed to collectively reimburse Equity Rwanda 56,525,439 Rwandan Francs (Sh6 million) for costs related to the crime.
The case had previously been delayed due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Officials aware of the proceedings said the Kenyan suspects have been on the radar of police for cyber-related crimes within the country involving millions of shillings.
Kirongothi skipped bail in a court case where he was accused of stealing Sh80 million by hacking into a Kenyan bank while Njagi stole Sh2.7 million similarly.
Gachiri had also been accused of electronically stealing Sh21.5 million in 2016 from Sidian Bank, then K-Rep Bank, though the charges were later dropped after the money was recovered.
In other separate cases, two Kenyan suspects were released from Rwandan jails after serving time for various crimes. Charles Kinuthia, was released on June 16, 2021 after serving two years for fraud and paying a fine of 3 million Rwandan Francs (Sh332,000).
Asman Macharia, who had been convicted for human trafficking in 2016, was released on June 20 after a five-year jail term and a fine of 10 million Rwandan Francs (Sh1.2 million).
Macharia is still under Rwandan custody until he completes paying the fine, despite a plea to pay it within a one-year period while in Kenya.
The Rwandan convictions come in the wake of increased cyber -crime activities buoyed by rapid information technology infrastructure development in the country and the region.
The members of an organized group were arrested while hacking into Equity Bank accounts and funneling the cash to Rwandans to draw out funds through Eazzy banking and ATMs.
Taarifa Rwanda daily reported the court pronounced the verdict on Friday, July 2, fining the suspects Rwf50 million ($49,600) in damages and about Rwf3 million ($3,000) for other charges.
“The court tendered the verdict on the five charges; unauthorized access to s computer or a computer system data; access to data with intent to commit an offence; unauthorized modification of computer or computer system data; theft; and formation of or joining a criminal association,” Taarifa Rwanda reported.