An employee of Equity Bank, Kenya’s biggest lender, colluded with other perpetrators to steal $2.1 million from the bank. TechCabal reported that the money was moved to over 500 bank accounts and mobile money wallets last week. 

“It’s an Equity staff transferring money from accounts to several bank accounts and M-Pesa lines. Some have refunded the money, and investigations are ongoing,” a detective with knowledge of the matter told TechCabal.

The unnamed employee at the centre of the fraud installed malware in the bank’s core system to avoid detection, said a bank insider who asked not to be named because they were not authorised to comment on the matter. 

When bank officials detected unusual activity in the lender’s system, $2.1 million had been moved out to several accounts, and some account holders had already withdrawn the money.  

Fifty-nine people have been arrested in connection with the incident, and an unknown number of persons have been granted bail. It was not immediately clear when they would be charged to court. 

The fraudulent transactions ran from April 9 to April 15, and millions of dollars were moved to the accounts of Equity Bank holders and eleven other lenders in an operation that exposed the vulnerability of Kenya’s banking system.

Equity Bank did not immediately respond to a request for comments. 

Some of the stolen funds have been returned, a detective said. The Directorate of Criminal investigations is also tracking other suspects, some of whom have gone into hiding, using mobile phones.

Bank staff colluding with criminals to steal from customers occasionally happens in Kenya. However, most go unreported as banks fear losing clients.

Equity Bank and Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), the sector regulator, have not commented on the incident since TechCabal’s report on the fraud. 

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