Editor’s Choice

Crooks who made us laugh ourselves to death

Doing wrong the right way: Why do crooks steal millions then hide in Shags or Mombasa where cops will look for them first?

I wanna be rich: Suspects in the Sh72 million Stanchart heist.

By Undercover Reporter

It is not easy being a criminal in 21st century Kenya. Just check the recent arrests of crooks be it in robberies, gold scams, pyramid schemes, tax evasion, corruption scandals, bank heists or theft by servant. A crime worth the risk is hinged on its daredevilry and attention to detail which leaves hard-nosed detectives admiring the ingenuity of the escape.

But today, Kenyan criminals don’t pant for long before running out of legs and into the long arms of the law.

Take the newest millionaires in Kenya who alas! never were. The master minds were laughably police officers tutored in ways of arresting crooks. It took five months to plan the Sh72 million heist, but not more than 48 hours to arrest them after stealing the money in new currency notes from Standard Chartered bank in Nairobi West on October 5.

The most successful heist in recent memory was the Sh27 million theft at Equity bank Kayole branch in November 2016. The suspect, a loner, rented a single-roomed in a court sharing the rear wall with the bank. Our hero then drilled a hole to the strong room and carted away two huge safes. He has never been caught. Or  the money recovered.  Never mind there were G4S security guards manning the bank’s entrance in the estimated over 10 hours it took to cart away the loot using two gas cylinders and welding machines, two blankets and several metallic tools police found inside the bank.

“There must have been employees who colluded with the robbers because they had details about the bank,” said one of the DCI (Directorate of Criminal Investigations) officers. “This is a well-planned heist.”
Planning a crime it appears, is the easy bit. Escaping with the bounty and butt intact seems to be the bane of many crooks. To make matters even easier Kenyans are living digital lives. This makes arrests by detectives a walk in the park when they employ a combination of the Internet, DNA analysis techniques, biometric identification technologies, CCTV and mobile phone cameras, listening devices, networked databases and neural networks for data analysis and voice recognition systems when tracking those trimming the edges of honesty.

Here is how crooks get arrested with the ease of fixing a cup of coffee…

Going shags/Mombasa: It is the commonest, most foolish move.  Most criminals in money heists are usually drivers, security personnel or police escorts. Before employment in the security sector, a Certificate of Good Conduct is in order from the DCI where finger prints are computerized. The officers only need to run prints left at the scene of crime and out pops details on your ID card- your face, name and location of your rural area where the chief is a government employee with an ear to the ground. Criminals on the run find relative comfort and safety with relatives in shags including AP constable Chris Ayienda, who was part of the Sh72 million heist. He was arrested in Kisii and Sh4 million found on him, before leading detectives to Kendu Bay in Homa Bay where his accomplice, Vincent Owuor, a civilian, was arrested and Sh3 million recovered.

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Hard nosed coppers: Few criminals get away with their loot.

Police also know the partners of escape to shags for different communities through psychological profiling: Luo and Luhya crooks prefer hiding in the rural homes of their maternal uncles. Luo criminals are also known to have an affinity of escaping to Uganda where some of their mothers hail from and thus have relatives. The suspects in the Sh72 million confessed they were on their way to Uganda but its not clear whether they have relatives there.  Kikuyus crooks run to the homes of their mothers and sisters. Others hid in the rental flats of their mistresses. Detectives only to comb their phone numbers from data stored with mobile phone providers and narrow down names saved as ‘Ciku Siz’ or ‘Njoro Bro’ and ‘Njeri Ka-Mum’ who could be the aforementioned siblings and mistress living in Kinoo, Muchatha or Gachie. Also singled out are the most frequently dialed numbers.

The other destination for financial crooks and cons, is the coast. Most can’t resist the lure of Mombasa Raha where most are either caught cavorting in beach hotels or buying cars at the port.

Spending spree: Stringent banking regulations forced crooks to avoid depositing their loot in bank accounts. You now have to explain sudden deposits of certain amounts. But a crook needs to reduce the weight of stolen dough as fast as possible. One way is fantasy spending, basically blowing cash on material things they have always yearned for.Police normally alert supermarkets, car dealerships, furniture stores and electronic shops to check out on abnormal spending after a heist. Bars are taken care of by police informers and undercover cops. Any showy spending in cash is one dead giveaway. Owuor in the recent Sh72 million heist bought a wine red Subaru Forrester on the same day of the theft. He splashed Sh1.5 million in new currency notes forgetting it would be deposited in a bank where serial numbers of the new notes had been circulated!

Criminals never learn.

In February 2010, G4S personnel disappeared with a security van carrying Sh300 million belonging to four banks in Mombasa. The money was being ferried to the G4S strong room, but driver Jacob Mutuku and his signal colleague had other lucrative ideas of crossing the poverty line. They abandoned the van and fled with the loot. Mutua bolted to Kajiado County. He was arrested in March and Sh17 million recovered in his apartment in Kitengela. More cash had been stashed in sealed buckets and submerged in a river. Another Sh63 million was recovered in Mombasa after a suspect blew Sh600, 000 on households goods including sideboards, carpets, a fridge and television set. Payment was in cash at a supermarket-where he had no loyalty card.

The smart phone: It has made detective work easy.Uber driver use the locater on your smart phone to know where you are, yet you have never met (and there is no reason why you should have met). That is the same route detectives from the DCI take in tracking crooks via GPS Phone and other Apps like TrapCall.

In April 2018, Wazir Chacha was being sought by police following accusations of fleecing MPs. Like most local crooks, Chacha fled to his Shags in rural Migori home where cops had followed his phone signal. On learning they were there, Chacha, son of former Kehancha Mayor Chacha Maubo switched off his phone. But Chacha wanted to make a hotel booking in Dar-es-Salaam. He switched on his phone and an officer who helped trace him later explained that “we traced the signal to Isebania but the phone was on only for five minutes. We had an idea that he was going into Tanzania and so we moved there and informed the authorities.”

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Police booked rooms at the PKM Inn from where Chacha was arrested while planning to cross to Zanzibar.

What about when a criminal switches off the phone, throws the Simcard down a pit latrine and buys another line?

Well, that is not smart either. Some smartphones emit signals even when switched off.  Phone Locator Apps also trace off grid phones. The DCI officers can run your phone through the database of a mobile phone provider and get hold of your relatives, friends and not a few enemies for clues of your whereabouts. This is how unrelated suspects are arrested before the main culprits. DCI and the NSIS have software for hacking into phone messages including WhatsApp through using Locate Any Phone App.

Dead end: Smooth criminals in the Sh50 million KCB Thika bank heist.

Then there is tracing  you using voice recognition technology. You can  change Simcards but not your voice. Okay, you must have seen crooks muffling their voices in movies but that rarely happens in Kenya. And haven’t phone companies been encouraging subscribers to register their voices? Isn’t your phone call to the bank recorded for “quality assurance?”

This was how the daring university students who dug a hole into KCB Thika branch and made away with Sh52 million in December 2017. Halford Munene Murakaru, 32, his brother Charles Mwangi Murakaru, 30, and their friend Julius Ndung’u Wainaina, 32, dug a 30-metre-long and 10-metre-deep tunnel from Thika City Friendly Stalls, where they had put up a bookshop. The tunnel took them the KCB vault, an assignment that took months to execute.

But they were arrested two weeks later in Marurui area in Kasarani, Nairobi. They had roped in a woman to help them search for a house in Juja, Kiambu County and its constant communication which sold them out via voice recognition technology…despite having changed phone numbers!

CCTV: The police officers who master minded the Sh72 million G4S heist were easily arrested as the CCTV cameras captured the number plates of the getaway van-which belonged to one of the cops! Number plates are tagged to car owners at KRA. The NTSA also has records of driving license renewals in their data base. The van was found in Kikuyu town being repainted at Owino’s Garage.  CCTV also made it easy to have the faces of the criminals who turned to be cops! Nairobi also has surveillance cameras on most major roads and highways which are integrated with the police Information Command and Control Centre (IC3). There is no single exit from Nairobi without surveillance cameras! These CCTV cameras also in matatus, homes, most buildings, gate entrances, bars, restaurants and even MPesa shops and chemists.

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Email: The DCI and the NSIS have software for tracing emails from the location of the computer used. The fake assassination letter on Deputy President William Ruto was traced to the specific computer and cyber café in Karen, Nairobi. Dennis Itumbi was later arrested in connection with the letter. Before opening an email address your personal cellphone number is required and an additional recovery email thus mouthing to authorities “it wasn’t me” becomes even harder!

Online footprints: QuackgynecologistMugo wa Wairimu was being sought by police after being exposed carrying out abortions, raping patients and other illegal medical work in his clinic in Kasarani, Nairobi in September 2015. He switched off his phone while on the run, but kept on responding to haters on his Facebook page as police monitored him across the guest house he was holing up in in Limuru town. The police, the DCI and the NSIS are on Facebook and Twitter!

Money pit: Digging a financial hole in the Sh50 millionKCB Thika bank heist.

Bank details/withdrawals: A crook on the run needs money mostly from an ATM meaning you once opened a bank account. But people forget they gave out giveaway details including residential locations, road, house number and whether you’re a tenant or home owner.  The next of kin was mostly likely your wife or mother with their contact details. You also give details of your other bank accounts and copies of PIN, ID card and a  bank statement. DCI officers only need to monitor ATM withdrawals and corresponding CCTV footage to confirm location before making arrests. In December 2015, a 21 year old man kidnapped himself then demanded a Sh30 million ransom from his loaded folks.  The man from Githathinivillage in Tetu Nyeri County disappeared from their home and later sent a distress message to his father claiming kidnappers were baying for his blood if the money was not sent. Foolishly, the message was sent using his phone. A man in the run or pretending to, needs money. He was arrested after ATM withdrawals indicated he was in Nyeri town and not Kericho!

The e-Passport: The new generation e-passport being issued in Kenya has data integrated in circuit or chips and linked to all passport control centres around the world be they airports or border posts.

Passport pause: Naivasha MP John Kahugi Karanja.

Naivasha MP John Kahugi Karanja discovered how e-passports worked the hard way. The first-term MP, was among a delegation of Catholic MPs visiting Rome before calling on the Pope at the Vatican but alas! Italians airport authorities deported him that March 2017. His passport had entry and exit stamps indicating he had been to three other European capitals. But integrated electronic details said otherwise. See, in every airport there is that photo taken of you before passports are stamped. It is not for beauty. It is for identifying travellers using the iris which is unique to every person in the world like finger prints. Hon Karanja’s iris check in Italy did not match any in the countries he purported to have visiting beginning with Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Karanja was seized by airport detectives at the JKIA in Nairobi and detained for interrogation which revealed that the entry and exit stamps were forgeries from Nairobi’s River Road for the purposes of later claiming per diem allowances from Parliament!

Huduma Namba: Will make crime busting even easier. Its data base has info about your family members, spouses, employment status, employer’s name, health insurance number, residential area and exact location of your home. What is more, it can hold up to 50 million facial images. From a scene of crime, a set of finger prints, will print out the entire history of a suspect within seconds!

The number has details of almost everything about you including your children. The biometric data you gave will come in handy. Think of a prison escapee who hibernates long enough for a case to go cold then goes seeking medical attention from a government facility!

The Huduma Namba has your PIN, occupation and side hustles. Sudden wealth acquired through proceeds of corrupt activities will be easily monitored by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) which can track your income via the PIN without which you cannot open bank accounts, buy property.

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