Mobile Money Transfers Suspected of Financing Dusit D2 Terror Attack

Arrests and court proceedings against persons suspected of involvement with the terrorist attack at the dusitD2 hotel in Nairobi on January 16 suggest that the Kenyan mobile money transfer system, Safaricom's M-Pesa, may have been used as a substantial financing vehicle. Five Somali militants attacked civilians in the luxury hotel, killing at least 21 people, with the militant group, al-Shabaab, claiming credit for the offensive.

Multiple news sources reported that court papers charging a half dozen suspects alleged that, during the final three months of 2018, one mobile money agent had registered dozens of M-Pesa accounts (52 in total) and received Sh9 million. On a single day in January 2019, the agent used Diamond Trust Bank to withdraw 13 tranches of Sh 400,000 (USD 3,984) for a total of Sh 5.2 million (USD 51,793)

A branch manager at Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) was charged for failing to report the withdrawals as suspicious transactions as required by regulations. In an affidavit in reply, the manager claimed that she is an innocent party and explained her understanding of the transaction flow between the mobile money service provider (Safaricom), the bank (DTB) and the service provider's agents.

"The bank, being an agent of Safaricom, releases the float according to instructions issued by the firm."

Oral argument for the defense began earlier this week.

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