THE chief executives of Kenya's four mobile phone companies yesterday denied that unregistered sim cards are in use on their networks.
The CEOs of Orange, Safaricom, Airtel and Yu appeared before the Directorate of Criminal Investigation Department the day after the Communications Commission of Kenya threatened to have them arrested for allowing unregistered lines to be used on their networks.
Bob Collymore of Safaricom, Michael Ghossein of Orange, Shivan Bhargava of Airtel and Madhur Taneja of Yu were questioned by senior detectives over claims that they had allowed unregistered sim cards to be used for criminal purposes.
The enquiry was reportedly prompted by the failure to identify the owners of the mobile phones used by the Westgate attackers last month.
Collymore was questioned at CID headquarters along Kiambu Road while Bhargava appeared before Makadara CID boss Zach Nanguli.
Ghossein was questioned at Kilimani police on Monday night while Taneja of Yu recorded a statement at Parkland's police station.
At a press conference yesterday at the Norfolk Hotel, the CEOs denied claims that the Westgate attackers had used local mobile lines to communicate. CCTV footage from the mall showed some terrorists speaking on phone.
CID Director Ndegwa Muhoro maintained that some unregistered sim cards were used by the Westgate attackers.
"We have obtained data and investigations are ongoing. Our investigations have been hampered since some of the sim cards were not registered in accordance with the law," said Muhoro.
CCK says there are hundreds of unregistered lines in the market. As of September 26, CCK said that Airtel had 385,267 unregistered subscribers while Essar, the operators of Yu, had 298,872. Both Orange and Safaricom had none.
In March, Safaricom had 8,658 unregistered subscribers on its network having slashed them from 800,000 in December, 2012. in March Orange had 64,107, Airtel 134,894 while Yu had none.
The deadline for deactivating unregistered SIM cards was December 31, 2012. However, mobile operators had until the end of March to remove unregistered SIM cards from their networks.
At the joint press conference, the four companies said CCK's figures are erroneous. The operators said they had switched off over 2.4 million unregistered numbers since the CCK directive on sim registration in July 2012,
"There are no active sim cards on our networks that have not been registered," said Collymore.
Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo on Monday blamed the Westgate security lapses on unregistered sim cards.
"There are leads we are following on how terrorists were able to hold communication that led to the terror attack at Westgate," Kimaiyo said.
The four operators said they have not been notified of any specific numbers used during the attack.
A Safaricom insider told the Star yesterday that the company has notified the police of many mobile numbers used by criminals to con the public but police fail to take action. He said the mobile numbers used by scammers in prison to con the public are known to the police.
Yesterday, senior principal magistrate Peter Ndwiga sentenced seven agents to six months in jail or a fine of Sh50,000 after they admitted selling unregistered sim cards.
The prosecution told court that the agents sold Safaricom and Airtel sim cards without first registering them as required by law.
Over 12 Safaricom and Airtel agents were arrested during a swoop by police in Nairobi on October 7 and 8, 2013.
Appolynalius Machuki, Margaret Njeri Nduta, Eunice Mulim and, Mirium Wairimu pleaded guilty.
Those who denied the charges are Thomas Kanini, Paul Gitau Mbugua and Joseph Ndichu Maingi, and John Mbui. The magistrate released them on a cash bail of Sh20,000 and their trial will begin on October 8.