, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 1 – Mystery surrounds the loss of Sh80 million from the headquarters of the Cooperative Bank in Nairobi.
Police said that people posing as cash-in transit crew from security firm G4S went to the bank and calmly signed away the cash which was due for collection. The crew was even escorted by armed Administration Police officers, according to a police officer quoting a bank official.
"We have no doubt this is an inside job, the people committed this robbery must have been aware that such an amount of money was to be collected from that bank at that time. We are going to question the bank officials to establish how they surrendered money to people who do not work at the security firm," the Head of the Special Crime Prevention Unit Richard Katola said.
Mr Katola who spoke to reporters when he led a team of detectives to Matubato Road where the \’G4S\’ van was found abandoned said bank officials who were involved in the transaction that took place at about 1pm were being questioned.
According to police, it took about two hours for the bank to realise that it had surrendered the money to the wrong crew.
"We understand the bank only realised this after the real G4S crew showed up to pick up the cash only to be told that another crew from the same company had taken away the money. That is when they claim they realised the truth but we are investigating all this details… we want to get the truth," a detective handling the case said.
On Friday evening, G4S sent a statement to newsrooms saying the crew that picked up the money from Cooperative Bank was fake and used a van that had been painted with G4S colours.
"The fraudsters picked up the cash consignment this afternoon and later abandoned the van in Kilimani area," said G4S Managing Director John Wheather.
In his statement, Mr Wheather said the vehicle involved in the incident was a G4S look-alike van and "was kitted and branded like the blue G4S CIT vans."
A security guard manning a gate where the van was abandoned told reporters he was approached by an Administration Police officer who came out of a van branded with G4S colours who asked him to help them with water to cool the vehicle\’s radiator.
"I rushed to get him water but when I came back to give the water, he told me to go back and get him a piece of cloth which they would use to open the radiator. Again I rushed back to get the piece of cloth but when I came back, I found the blue vehicle abandoned there with its bonnet open," the guard said.
"I also saw a white saloon car which was parked behind the van driving away, I tried to check if there was anybody on site but I could not see anyone around," he added.
Police officers from Kilimani police station led by the divisional Police chief Bernard Muli recorded a statement from the guard.
"We have spoken to him and taken a statement. He is so helpful but we want to know more from the bank because G4S have disowned this van and the crew," he added.
The security company has suffered repeated high profile robberies in the recent past losing hundreds of millions in the last year. The latest heist is the sixth since late last year with the total loss running to almost Sh500 million.
In March the company lost Sh300 million in another robbery in Mombasa.
"We would like to reiterate that G4S is continuously improving its systems and processes, including working closely with the Government as well as instituting stringent staff vetting and monitoring of vehicles, among other measures," said Mr Wheather.
He added: "We emphasise our core values of customer focus, expertise, performance, best people, integrity, collaboration and teamwork to ensure that customer interests are protected."
On Friday evening, detectives were still interrogating the bank\’s officials who had contact with the \’G4S\’ crew when the money was lost.
One detective told Capital News some of the bank officials would be detained for further questioning as police sought to establish more details about the robbery which they termed as an \’inside job.\’
There were no immediate details of the number of bank officials who were being interrogated but the Special Crime Prevention Unit detectives had indicated they were mainly interested in those who played part in the transaction, including guards who let the crew into the bank.
There was no immediate statement from the Cooperative Bank but insiders said top managers were holed up in a series of crisis meetings late on Friday.