Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thieves drive away with Sh25m in Nairobi raid

Armed Administration Police officers inspect an abandoned G4S vehicle at Hurlingham, Nairobi on September 23, 2009 after it was stolen at Yaya Centre carrying Sh25 million for deposit. An officer was found unconscious inside the van. Photo/JAMES NJUGUNA

Armed Administration Police officers inspect an abandoned G4S vehicle at Hurlingham, Nairobi on September 23, 2009 after it was stolen at Yaya Centre carrying Sh25 million for deposit. An officer was found unconscious inside the van. Photo/JAMES NJUGUNA  

By NATION Team

Thieves on Wednesday stole Sh25 million without firing a shot in what detectives say was an inside job in Kenya's capital Nairobi. In a choreographed “operation”, the thieves stole eight bags of cash from a G4S van with suspicious ease. The van, escorted by another vehicle, was distributing cash to ATM machines in Nairobi's Hurlingham area.

An off-duty Administration Police officer, who tried to escape on a motorbike, was later arrested in another part of the city with Sh825,000, believed to be part of the money stolen.

Driver got out

Detectives said initial investigations indicated that the van drove out of the security firm’s strong room at 7.30am, with two AP guards, an employee of the security company, and the driver.

It was escorted by another vehicle with two more APs. The van arrived at Yaya Centre at 7.54am and the G4S employee, an AP and, amazingly, the driver got out and escorted one bag of money to the KCB ATM at the shopping mall.

Two other APs and the driver of the escort vehicle also got out and followed the others inside, leaving one man to guard the fortune.

The passenger door of the van was open and the keys in the ignition. The AP who was left in the van was later found slumped unconscious in the abandoned vehicle, still clutching his rifle. Detectives took him to Memorial Hospital to establish that he was not faking.

At 8.01am, a man in a short sleeved shirt ran to the van, jumped in and drove into the shopping mall’s basement. The van was followed closely by a white Toyota station wagon. Both vehicles drove into the basement and out of the rear exit, where they stopped briefly to speak to the guards at the gate.

Blocking gate

They sped to Chania Road, less than 200 metres away, with the white car in tow. A guard at one of the homes on Chania Road and who refused to be named, told police he saw three men moving bags from the van to a white car and then driving off.

The abandoned van was blocking the gate of Church Vision Society. One of its managers, Mr Enos Mudanyi, went to Yaya Centre to complain to G4S staff that one of their vans was blocking his gate. Armed police jumped into his car and ordered him to show them his gate.

At the scene, in movie-type drama, police cocked their guns and ordered everyone, including a pack of journalists, not to go near the vehicle. They approached cautiously — and found an apparently unconscious AP and no money.

The deputy Kilimani OCPD, Mr Fredrick Ochieng’, said: “We suspect it was an inside job because the crew, including those who are not supposed to enter the ATM, went and left only one AP behind.

Three Administration Police officers and three G4S security guards who were escorting the money are detained for interrogation. The group had emerged from the KCB ATM to take the next bag of cash to a Barclays cash dispenser and found the van gone.

Police were quickly informed and circulated the registration number. Carloads of detectives sped towards the Hurlingham area. At some point, police were misinformed that the van had been seen in Eastleigh estate.

By Wednesday afternoon, a major police operation headed by Flying Squad boss Julius Sunkuli and the Special Crime Prevention Unit boss Richard Katola had recovered Sh1 million in Makongeni and Industrial Area, including the Sh825,000 from the off-duty AP. Mr Katola said that detectives from his unit, acting on a tip off, intercepted the AP officer attached to Embakasi.

“Immediately after the incident, detectives on patrol within Makongeni and Hamza area on Jogoo Road received information about a suspect who had called for a motor bike to take him to Embakasi. We intercepted him and he jumped onto the motorbike with the intention of escaping but we arrested him.

On being searched we found Sh825,000 in cash. He did not have an explanation of why he had such a large sum of money. We suspect he was part of the group that escaped with the money. This was definitely an inside job and was not a robbery because no violence was used at any time.”

Jumped into van

He said that detectives had information which might help them track down the suspects. Another team of detectives from the Flying Squad reviewed CCTV footage of the suspect as he jumped into the G4S van and drove off. A watchman on Chania Road said he saw the van parked near his gate, but did not think anything of it.

“I was opening the gate for my boss and saw the van parked in front of the opposite gate but thought it had broken down and would be towed away. I did not see it come. Then later, many police officers arrived,” said the guard, Mr Hezron Onyango.

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