, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 11 – It is ‘Njaanuary’, as Kenyans have come to refer to the ‘tough’ month of January after December festivities and it comes with unique challenges.
Already, a racketeering group has employed dubious skills to rip off cash from gullible Kenyans who are equally desperate of making an extra coin or just anything that will add value to their lives.
Across the streets of Nairobi, you won’t miss a group of people claiming to be working for communication firms or simply running a promotion, where lavish gifts are likely to be won.
It is simple.
One, according to their narrative, and victims, you just need to scratch one of their cards, and if lucky, you can win a free laptop, a television set (inches are usually enticing) and so on.
You can never lose, goes their persuasive narrative which hundreds of Kenyans have fallen to, losing hundreds of thousands.
– Case Study –
Jane Wamuyu was headed home from work when she encountered this group at the Junction of Kenyatta and Moi Avenue.
A group of about five people three men and two women, all with some cards stopped her.
She was hesitant but gave in, after all, she thought it was just an easy task of just scratching the cards, where she would win or lose.
“I had the laptop gift in mind. I decided to try out my luck not knowing the mess I was about to get myself into,” she recalls, during an interview with Capital FM News.
Well, she was lucky and it was a laptop.
“I was so excited. They asked me to register with their colleagues who were just a few metres away, inside a vehicle… I was ready to receive my gift,” she said.
Just before, she was asked to pay a fee of Sh8,000 “to finally get the laptop. I was hesitant but I was convinced that it was important to pay the ‘small fee’ after all, a nice laptop was slightly above the amount three times.”
“I consoled myself, knowing after all that I will get value for money.”
She had to withdraw some cash from an ATM machine, just a stone throw away.
“A lady accompanied me…I felt uncomfortable but we went with her anyway,” she recalled.
Wamuyu withdrew the amount and some Sh13,000 more, which she handed over to the ‘registering officer.’
“I believe they drugged me…,” she said.
She was later to be given a form, with complicated details and was to use it to claim the ‘free gift’ from one of their alleged customer care shops.
Two hours later she come to her senses and become part of statistics of people conned within the city.
Infuriatingly, the group had the guts to dismiss her, “and even asked me to report to police.”
The incident happened on August 22, 2017 and was reported to police the following day.
But that has not stopped the racketeers from operating within the city.
– Encounter with police officer –
Martin Mwangi, a police officer based at Jogoo House, was on January 2 approached by a man “who asked me whether I had a Safaricom line. I noticed that he was holding a card written Jivunie Star Times JYDS Promotions.”
Being a cop, Mwangi knew this was part of the racket stealing from the public but he didn’t at that point reveal his identity.
“He (the conman) did not give up but annoyingly insisted that I try their free promotion. He nagged me further and when I did not give in to their demands, he hurled insults at me and walked away towards a parking space, where a motor vehicle that is usually used as an office by the racketeers was parked,” the officer said.
He was able to secretly capture a few photos of the group.
But just as he was about to leave, one of them discovered Mwangi had taken their photos and alerted the rest.
“On sounding the alarm, two men rushed to where I was standing and hit me on my back, while one of them was stepping on my left foot…,” Mwangi said.
One of them claimed he was a police officer based at Central Police Station while demanding to know why “you were recording us.”
At that point, Mwangi revealed his identity (said he is a police officer as well) but even after that, the man grabbed his phone and attempted to delete the photos and a video of them.
But he managed to get his phone back and later reported the matter to Central Police Station.
Already the lead suspect, the conman who is also a police impostor has since been charged in court with maliciously damaging an iPhone valued at Sh80,000 and assault.
– Investigations –
Several other cases have been reported to police but a spot check by Capital FM News team reveals that the groups are still operating within the city.
Central Police boss Robinson Thuku says a majority of victims do not report to police.
He has urged the public to report such cases for the culprits to be brought to book.
A section of members of the public believes some police officers offer ‘security’ to the group.
“How comes they are still in the streets despite tens of complaints?” Martin Onyango, a city resident wondered.