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Daring, crafty bank robberies that shocked Kenya

By Graham Kajilwa | October 8th 2021

Hardened top city detective described the 1998 daylight heist as “mafia-style”. [Courtesy]

On November 20, 2017, robbers dug a tunnel and accessed KCB Thika branch’s strong room, stealing Sh50 million. The police station was barely 150m away.

On October 2, 2015 three university students and a form four student walked into Othaya Equity Bank branch and convinced the deputy branch manager that they were auditors. They made away with Sh30.9 million.

On November 6, 2016, thieves drilled through the wall of Equity Bank Kayole branch and stole Sh27 million. The operation took them two months to accomplish.

Broken safe, Equity Bank, Kayole branch. [Courtesy]

Twenty-three years ago, six armed robbers walked into Standard Chartered Bank, Moi Avenue branch and after five minutes, they casually walked out with Sh96 million stuffed in three gunny bags without firing a single shot.

A hardened top city detective described the daylight heist as “mafia-style” pointing out that in his entire career as a law enforcer, he had never seen such a brazen and daring gang.

“I have not seen anything like this and I can assure you that it was an inside and well-executed job,” Nairobi Area Criminal Investigations Department Boss, Salim Swaleh, told the press.

Standard Chartered Bank logo. [Courtesy]

According to a report in The East African Standard, until this raid, the biggest bank robbery had involved a Sh74 million hold-up in February 1993 on the junction of Nairobi’s Dennis Pritt, State House and Ralph Bunche roads.

About 14 armed gangsters had waylaid an International Red Cross official, Sami Sidani, shortly after he had withdrawn the cash from a city bank.

The thugs shot a few times in the air before ordering the IRC official to hand over the cash, in Kenya shillings and American dollars.

However, August 1999 takes the trophy for the stranger-than-fiction bank robberies in Kenya. A cocky armed six-man gang belting out religious hymns ‘Toa ndugu, toa dada, ulichonacho wewe,” as they robbed Sh9 million from the Mashreq Bank at the ICEA building.

ICEA building, 2015. [David Gichuru, Standard]

In July of the same year, the bank had been robbed of almost Sh500,000 in a similar fashion.

Media reports said that before leaving, the thugs invited their victims to a party at a city hotel as they were now rich men.

They are alleged to have given back Sh3,000 stolen from one of the guards, saying he was “a poor man and cannot afford to be robbed”.

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