Sh25m Kenya heist puzzle

September 23, 2009 12:00 am


 NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 23 – Police in Kenya are on the hunt for some Sh25 million which was stolen when robbers allegedly drugged an armed Administration Police officer on escort duty at Yaya Centre in Nairobi, driving off a security van loaded with cash he was guarding.

The officer was in the company of three others who had escorted the G4S security van to Yaya Centre to replenish Automated Teller Machines (ATM) when he was reportedly left outside to guard the van as three G4S staff and two police officers went into the mall.

“He was left seated in the vehicle guarding the money as the rest of the officers and security company crew loaded money into ATMs in the shopping mall. But when they came back to collect more money for the remaining ATMs they found the van missing. That is when the search began,” Fredrick Ochieng, deputy divisional Police chief at Kilimani police station said.

“Two hours later, we received a report that the van had been spotted parked outside an apartment on Chania Avenue, about one kilometer away. Residents in the area reported to us that they became worried because the van had stayed there for a long time and they saw a policeman sleeping inside holding onto his gun,” he added.

Earlier, police officers had been mobilized to intercept a van that had been reportedly spotted in Eastleigh, more than ten kilometers away but it later turned to be a hoax.

“We quickly rushed to Chania Avenue, just behind Yaya Centre where the van was parked and discovered that the officer was lying inside asleep as he held onto his gun,” Mr Ochieng’ said.

But disarming him was not an easy task as he held a powerful MP5 rifle which his colleagues said was loaded with 25 rounds of ammunition.

Nearly ten officers who arrived at the scene surrounded the van, cocked their guns and ordered him out before three of them slowly approached him and grabbed the gun. He did not make a move, and police concluded he had been drugged.

“It appears he was drugged but we are not able to establish what was used. We are taking him to the Forces Memorial Hospital but he is still a prime suspect in this robbery,” another police officer said as they searched the van.

The van was found to be empty Mr Ochieng’ told reporters up to Sh25 million was missing from it.

Surprisingly, all the keys meant to open the van and its ignition keys were left with the driver at Yaya Centre, deepening the mystery further and pointing to a possible collusion of the staff.

About six hours after the robbery, Special Crime Prevention Police Unit Chief Richard Katola said “We have recovered about Sh1 million and this is part of the stolen money.”

“We have also arrested a suspect who was found with some Sh800,000 in Shauri Moyo. The rest of the money was found in Industrial Area and the search is still on,” he added.

G4S Security Company Communications Manager Daniel Okoth said the incident would not affect operations of ATMs which are replenished by the security company.

 “We would like to assure customers and the general public that ATM services, which G4S offers countrywide, will not be disrupted by this unfortunate incident,” he said in an emailed statement to Capital News.

And even as G4S sought to assure the public on the safety of their money, investigators were puzzled to learn that the incident was well planned and executed and kicked off immediately the van was parked outside the Yaya Centre as soon as the crew and two APs went with the money in the shopping mall.

Capital News got access of the CCTV footage at the Yaya Centre which showed how the van arrived with an escort car in tow. The crew is seen offloading some of the cash and escorting it to one of the ATMs, leaving an Administration Policeman seated on the front seat of the van.

Even the drivers of the two vehicles are seen alighting and following the others to the shopping mall, something fellow security officers termed unusual.

And as soon as they vanished, a man dressed in a white shirt and a dark trouser is seen walking to the van where he swiftly opened the driver’s seat and started the car which is immediately followed by a white saloon car.

Images from CCTV cameras at the exit gate captured the vehicles as they stopped briefly and guards are seen talking to the occupants before the gates were opened and the two vehicles are seen exiting the mall.

Here pertinent questions arise:

-Where did the man seen driving the security van get the ignition keys, yet the van’s original keys were found with the driver who was left at the Yaya Centre?
-Did the man driving the security van produce a parking ticket for the automated barrier at the gate to open?
-Why did the Administration Policeman sit in the car yet he was supposed to be standing outside guarding the van from any possible attack or robbery?
-Why did all the crew escort the cash to the ATMs in the shopping mall, leaving only one policeman outside?
-Why did the crew leave one of the doors of the van open as seen in the CCTV images?
-How did the strangers gain access to money in the van yet reports indicate the van’s doors are only opened using sophisticated security codes?

These were among the many questions investigators were grappling with as they sought to establish the truth behind the robbery.

“With all these gaps, we can only conclude that it is an inside job that was planned and executed by insiders. Some outsiders were involved but only collaborated with the people entrusted with the money,” Head of Flying Squad Unit Julius Sunkuli said.

The incident occurred barely three weeks after President Mwai Kibaki fired Maj Gen (rtd) Mohammed Hussein Ali and replaced him with Mathew Iteere who formerly commanded the General Service Unit (GSU), a paramilitary wing of the Kenya Police.

Mr Iteere in his maiden speech announced he would fight crime ruthlessly, particularly organised crime.



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