Police unearth motorbike theft syndicate in Nairobi's Eastleigh

Some 25 bikes believed to have been stolen were recovered from a garage in Eastleigh. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Police have unearthed what could be a well-connected syndicate that has been stealing motorbikes from dealers.

Acting on a tip-off from a motorcycle dealer, the officers recovered tens of motorbikes from a garage in Nairobi’s Eastleigh area.

According to the police, unsuspecting youth are lured into the syndicate by the thieves with a promise of making a quick buck.

The youth are given Sh15,000 to take a loan from the dealers, after which they are given Sh5,000 for depositing the motorbikes to the thieves. 

Once the thieves receive the bikes, they take them to a garage where the trackers are disabled with an hour.  

After losing many motorbikes from his dealership, Maurice Nyangao, Chief Executive Officer of Hi-Line Motors said they decided to fit one of the bikes with two trackers. The thieves managed to remove one. 

It is this second tracker which led them and the police to the garage in Eastleigh. 

The dealers work in conjunction with a credit finance company that does the vetting of the applicants before approving their request to buy a motorbike on loan. After paying a deposit of Sh15,000, the applicant is then given the bike which they are supposed to make monthly payments. A bike costs Sh149,000. 

“We experienced our first incident on August 18 when our financiers, Watu Credit Ltd told us that one of the bikes they had just given out on loan could not be traced,” said Nyangau.

He added: “It is then that we decided to investigate and we discovered that people who were disguised as coming to borrow motorbikes on loans would take the bike from the shop after going through the normal loan process and within an hour or so, the motorbike cannot be traced.”

Nyangoa said this is when they engaged the police, Watu Credit and other dealers and within three weeks, they were able to arrest 14 people.

The bikes were found to have been stolen in various parts of the country including Bungoma and Eldoret. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Those arrested confessed how the syndicate works, including how much they are given after being hired to be used to procure a motorbike, and how the tracker is removed.

“Within a span of two weeks, we have lost seven motorbikes each going for Sh149,000, while Watu Credit Ltd said they have lost 79 motorbikes,” said Nyangao.

The vice is prevalent in Kayole, Kawangware and River Road, where many dealers who have been hit by the thieves.

How the syndicate works is the scammers approach a person, mostly young men on the streets and entice them to take a bike on loan.

The young men are given Sh15,000 which is downpayment for the motorbike, and the scammers arrange for guarantor. They also link the young man with a rider.

There is no paper trail because there are no phone contacts exchanged and that is why when the person who applied for the loan is caught, the police hit a dead end in trying to track masterminds.

In the operation by police at the Eastleigh garage, some 18 new motorcycles and seven used ones were recovered.

The bikes were found to have been stolen in various parts of the country including Bungoma and Eldoret.

“One of the motorbikes that was stolen in Eldoret and we were looking for it over the weekend was found in the garage,” said Nyangao.

Speaking at the police station, Umbrella Bodaboda Association of Kenya (UBAK) vice-chairman John Nzioka, said their members have been victims of the syndicate, and have been wondering if Watu Credit is in the syndicate. 

“This revelation by the police has restored our trust in the microfinance company. We hope the police will throughly investigate this incident and prevent future thefts of motorcycles,” said Nzioka.

At the same time, Thoma Lesaatini, chairman UBAK warned that such a syndicate is bound to drive away micro-financiers, which will affect many jobless youth.

“We don’t want to lose these microfinanciers who help us acquire motorbikes in a simpler way because many jobless youths cannot afford to buy motorbikes in cash. Many of them are now in cells because they have been bribed with as little of Sh3,000 to participate in this syndicate,” said Lesaani.

Starehe Sub-county OCPD Julius Kiragu said they are yet to verify ownership of the recovered motorcycles. 

“We shall follow up with the company that the owner of some of the new motorbike dealer claims he bought to know the truth of the matter and with information we have received, we hope to crack this cartel,” said Kiragu.