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5 arrested as police bust Central region car theft syndicate

Sunday June 23 2019

A car suspected to have been stolen parked

A car suspected to have been stolen parked outside Nyeri Central Police Station on June 24, 2019. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

NICHOLAS KOMU
By NICHOLAS KOMU
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Nyeri detectives are holding five people linked to a car theft syndicate in the Central region.

They were arrested on Saturday, while attempting to sell a car police believe was stolen, and taken to Nyeri's Central Police Station.

The move was a breakthrough in investigations into the resurgence of car theft in Nyeri, Kerugoya and Murang’a towns over the last three months.

DUPLICATION

Police say the syndicate specialises in duplicating vehicle registration details, using them on stolen cars and selling these cars to unsuspecting buyers.

The vehicle in question was impounded in Kenol, Murang’a, by police officers who also located the one whose details were copied.

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The genuinely registered car was used as a taxi in Nyeri town before the owner sold it.

At the time of the arrest, the car with the fake registration details was being operated under a car hire firm based in Nyahururu.

Police are yet to determine its original registration details and the legitimate owner.

GRAND SCHEME

Both vehicles are Toyota NZEs with the number plate KBN 758W.

Police were more puzzled by the suspects' ability to create identical chassis numbers.

Nyeri Central Sub-County Police Commander Paul Kuria said the suspects had also managed to duplicate the identity of the original owner.

“They have even managed to get the personal details of the original owner and created a logbook and legitimate registration plates," he said.

"This means they must be colluding with officers in State agencies. We have made a key breakthrough in breaking the syndicate."

FORGED LOGBOOK

Documents seen by the Nation show that details of a Charles Maina Gitahi, whom police believe is the original owner, were acquired under unclear circumstances and used to create a fake logbook.

According to the documents, the culprits created copies of the National Identification card and the Kenya Revenue Authority PIN certificate.

Forensic experts also uncovered a trick used in changing chassis numbers - the original number is smelted off and a new one imprinted onto the frame of the car.

MORE ARRESTS

Police say the bust is likely to lead to more arrests following an increase in cases of vehicle theft in major towns in Central region.

In Nyeri, at least six vehicles have reportedly been stolen from parking lots in the last three months.

“In the last one month, three people have reported that they parked their cars and within minutes, they disappeared. With these arrests, we have a clue where the cars have been going,” Mr Kuria said.

The trend is not new, especially to Nyeri, as vehicles have been stolen since 2018.

In all cases, there were no reports of use of force by thieves who drove the cars away yet owners say they left them locked.

Notably, the cars were stolen during the day.

IGNITION KEYS

Questions have also been raised on how the thieves start the cars without ignition keys.

In one of the cases, a Toyota station wagon, registration KBF 165K, was driven out of the compound of the Anglican Church in Nyeri town in the middle of a Sunday service.

The victim had left it in the worshipers’ parking area but robber drove out unsuspectedly, posing as the owner.

ARRAINGMENT

Police expect to arraign the five suspects on Monday as they pursue others.

“They will be charged with handling stolen goods as we conduct further investigations. More information will definitely come out of this so we could prefer more charges later,” Mr Kuria said.

The impounded vehicle was also taken to Nyeri's Central Police Station for analysis.