Crime isn’t for everyone. But its like politics, not everybody who can, should, and not everybody who does, can. Good criminals know that a good heist is not done until you get away with it. The individuals on this list didn’t read the manual to the end.
7. The Eldoret West Buglars
What is the one place that is deemed so safe that no one cares to guard it?
A police station! Genius, isn’t it?
On October 14th, 2014, three men sneaked into the Eldoret West police station through the back fence. One of them scaled the back wall to the first floor and broke a window pane to one of the houses as the other two made their way up. It was a perfect plan actually. They had figured no one would be home, and since this was within a police station, no one would be guarding it. The week before, they (or a rival gang) had stolen the commanders laptop right from his house. Nothing could possibly go wrong. Only something did.
Since the last burglary, the commander of the station had placed a single sentry to do the rounds around the quarters. The sentry happened on the three burglars as they were making away with the loot, a single fax machine and a bunch of clothes. While the story didn’t explain why anyone would still have a fax machine in 2014, the burglars sure thought they could get away with it. Only they didn’t.
The sentry chased them and the first two made it over the fence. The third one wasn’t so lucky. He was shot dead. The commander, cheekily, told the press conference that his death was “unfortunate.”
6. The Jetset Gang
One weekend in September 2014, teams of Flying Squad officers sped on the JKIA tarmac towards a JamboJet flight that had just landed from Mombasa. They grounded the flight, screened all the passengers and searched their luggage. In the luggage of one male passenger, they found Shs. 400, 000 bundled with rubber bands. He was part of a gang of four robbers, all on the same flight, who thought they had devised the perfect system. They lived in Nairobi but operated in Mombasa, making it easier for them to hide after their robberies. In Mombasa, they stayed at a hotel and used stolen cars to move around. After every few heists, they would flee to Nairobi and hide until the manhunts ended (two were cops), or when they got broke again.
This time, they had just robbed a man of Shs. 2 million, and then another of Shs. 800, 000, and a few others, before packing up their loot and checking out of their hotel in Mtwapa. They then booked a flight and left Mombasa to enjoy their loot before the next harvest. In the span of the one-hour the flight took, Mombasa police called the Nairobi cops and alerted them of the passengers, prompting the dramatic arrest on the tarmac at Kenya’s main airport.
5. The Eager Investor
At the height of the cash-in-transit heists, one in Mombasa stood out. A cash-in-transit van sped off after collecting more than Shs. 250 million, leaving the police escort stranded. It still is the biggest single heist of hard cash, but most of it was eventually recovered. This is the story of how Shs. 80 million was recovered from a one man on a single day.
One week after the heist, a dark man moved his family into an apartment in Kitengela. It was a routine move but for the fact that almost everything looked new. The furniture, the electronics, and everything else. The man of the house didn’t venture out for the entire first week after moving in, and when he did, he came back in handcuffs.
The man, Jacob Musau left Kitengela when he figured the manhunt for him and his accomplices had fizzled out. Only it hadnt. Instead of going into hiding, he travelled to Mombasa and tried to buy a house for Shs. 63 million in cold hard cash. The seller got suspicious, called the police and got the man arrested. Musau led the police to his new crib in Kitengela where they found Shs. 17 million in his bedroom. Maybe if he hadn’t been too eager to invest, he would have enjoyed his loot more, like some of his accomplices.
Almost all the other robbers were arrested in Kitui. The man who had driven the van had barely half a million shillings on him. Even more strangely, they had roped in a police commander and his brother in the cover-up. All of them were caught.
4. Bromance among thieves
Sometime in late 2014, a lady called Jane Ndungu was driving into ABC Place, Waiyaki Way, when a Toyota Noah cut her off and two men jumped out of the car. They broke into her car and made away with Shs. 30 million in US dollars, all money she had been withdrawing to pay staff of Denel Mechem, a South-African demining and weapons manufacturer.
Two of the men were caught within three months, because of their bromance. The two, Brian Ayanga and Johnson Mbingu went on a spending spree. They rented two similar four-bedroom houses in Buru Buru and bought expensive sofas and 60-inch TV sets. Each man also bought a Mercedes Benz 320e Series to complete their new status. For Christmas, they flew their girlfriends to Mombasa where they rented a four-bedroom apartment in Nyali that set them back Shs. 20, 000 per night. For the New Year, they went to Naivasha and stayed at a five-star hotel. It was a short-lived thrill, because they were in handcuffs by mid-January.
3. The thugs who forgot the most important tool
In March 2010, three policemen arrived at the Equity Center at 6:30 am. Their ride hadn’t arrived as planned, and they had found their way to embark on the days mission, guarding a cash-in-transit van to Garissa. The bank staff were bewildered, the driver had arrived with cops, they were sure, and they had even checked their credentials. Only they hadn’t been.
Then the panic began. The cash box in the Wells Fargo van had Shs. 36.4 million that was probably in the wind by now. Investigators got even more confused even more when the vans location kept pinging through multiple locations. They eventually found it in Juja, abandoned and empty, that evening. But then they got another call.
The first one led them to the other Wells Fargo crew members sans the driver. They had been abandoned at a farm, tied down and with their eyes sealed shut with masking tape. It was perfect, now they would never find the money. The third call is why an otherwise perfect robbery is on the list. A man found a huge metal box in Ndarugo, a place between Juja and Thika, abandoned and seemingly unopened.
Despite meticulous planning and more than 7-hour head start, the robbers had forgotten they would need to open the box once they had it. They hadn’t carried tools to break into the box, and eventually abandoned it still sealed shut, with the target merely inches away, just a few kilometers from where they had grabbed it.
2. The Man who pulled off “The Heist of the Century”
And almost got away with it.
One windy night in early January 1997, a man called Charles Omondi drove into the JKIA with the perfect plan. He had fake papers allowing his company, Chaco Inter-Afric Enterprises, to act as a clearing agent for Citibank. Other than the papers, all he had was his confidence. His plan was simple, he would walk in, present his papers, pick up a package, and run.
That’s exactly what he did. When he left the offices of the freight company, he was carrying an 11-kg bag with a $1 million (over KShs. 100 million at todays rates). It was so perfect that no one realized the money had been stolen until the real couriers arrived the next morning to pick up the money.
Meanwhile, Omondi fled to Tanzania and for a year and three months, roamed between Tanzania and Congo. He burnt through most of his money and eventually sneaked back into Kenya. On March 12, 1998, police responding to a domestic violence call in Buruburu arrested the man of the house, only to find that he was one of Kenya’s most wanted man, with a bounty on his head. He had almost gotten away with the heist of the century, only to be arrested because he was fighting with his wife over why she had moved houses in his absence.
For the bloodless heist, Omondi was jailed for three years. He was released in 2002 through a presidential pardon.
1. The overly nice kidnappers
If there is a perfect kidnapping, it’s probably one where the victim is contractually obligated to pay for his ransom, right?
On the evening of Thursday April 30 1998, an elderly man and two of his employees were abducted from the road leading to old man’s house. They were bundled into a waiting BMW 320 and driven to a homestead in Karen. The kidnappers wanted Shs. 200 million from the old man, and they figured he could afford it.
The man, Abdul Karim Popat, was the founder of a conglomerate called Simba Corp. that held the franchise for Mistubishi in Kenya, and owned a string of businesses, including Imperial Bank. One of the kidnappers, a seasoned criminal called Alois Kimani, had worked for him a few months before quitting. He had then recruited two others, a computer programmer and a university graduate, to execute the perfect plan.
They stole the BMW, pooled their money to rent a house for that month, and followed the man around for three weeks before making their move. They gave Popat books and newspapers and even allowed him to call his wife to assure her he was okay. The wily old man bargained them down to Shs. 6 million, delivered to City Park or Nairobi War Cemetery. They inked a deal. Literally. The kidnappers drew a contract and had Popat sign it!
They ran into problem number one when they tried to drop him off to fulfill his part of the contract. The police were still at his home, and they hurried back to Karen. That’s when the dumb mistakes begun. They led the second man, Mohammed, the then MD of Imperial Bank, to the bank and forced him to retrieve money from the safe. Then they let him go. But not with his mobile phone, which they figured would come in handy. Over the next day, they called several police stations and demanded money to release the businessman. They also took the third man, Popat’s driver Stephen Kamau, to hospital after he fell from the ceiling while trying to escape. Kamau died in hospital.
The mobile phone became their undoing. Mobile technology was relatively new, and they didn’t think anyone could reliably track them down. The police traced the calls and ambushed the house at dawn on Sunday, 60 hours since Popat and his employees had been kidnapped. Only Wamai and Kinyanjui, the computer programmer and the university graduate, were guarding him at the time. They freaked out, surrendered, and Popat was saved. Kimani, the thug, made his way into the compound when it was all over, only to find it teeming with grinning cops who shot him when he fired at them.
Wamai and Kinyanjui were jailed?for?three years each.
One story is good,
till Another is told.