The untold story of Kenya’s great bank robbery that never materialized

Barclays Bank branch, Muindi Mbingu Street, Nairobi. March 2016. [Reuters]

The security guard at Barclays Bank only had to hand over the bank key, keep it secret and look shocked like other employees on the day when robbers were supposed to carry out what is arguably the largest money robbery in Kenya.

If all went well, adherence to it should be rewarded with part of the looted money.

The idea started when two teenagers were sharing a cigarette. They had planned to leave the Barclays Bank of Kenya, now Absa, with a staggering 120 million shredders without firing a single shot.

It was a quick encounter on the first day: the security guard became curious about an idea from a stranger posing as a customer, was enthusiastic and finally gave in.

Since the deal offered was too sweet and risky, he needed more insiders. The nameless guard hired a second guard who was on the night shift.

He was later to learn that a housekeeper, cashier, retail support staff, and former clerk – who confessed in the meeting to plan a robbery – that he was involved in another $ 34 million robbery in the Jomo branch Barclays Bank’s Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) disappeared – were also in the heinous act.

The revelation of how the robbery was planned and intended to be carried out, including a mock exercise, is contained in a legal battle between Barclays Bank and its former cashier, Michael Njoroge.

Mr. Njoroge was released after a failed exercise that targeted Absa’s Nakuru East branch. The robbers awaited the repatriation of the money from Nakuru West, Nyahururu and Kericho.

The cashier sued and requested an unfair dismissal after he was acquitted by the local court.

On October 11, 2012, a bank attendant was approached by a customer and asked if he was willing to participate in an exercise.

The two exchanged cell phone numbers and arranged another meeting for the next day.

Money in transit lobby

The second meeting was held at the Midland Hotel in Nakuru, and this time the alleged customer was accompanied by another man and two women.

They gave him the details of their mission, and the role he was supposed to play was to help the four of them access the bank through the cash-in-transit lobby.

Another meeting was arranged on October 13, at which the gang asked the security guard to recruit his colleague to occupy the bank during the night. He rushed the other guard in and they got new cell phones to make communication easier.

Six days later, Labor Court Judge Maureen Onyango, the gang held a fourth meeting to introduce the guards to other Syndicate members.

Court documents say the other cleaners imported were Mohammed Jaffer, the retail worker James Gitau and Njoroge.

There was also Barclay’s former employee Jimmy Kamande, who confessed at the meeting that he was involved in the disappearance of around 34 million shutters in the JKIA branch. Fortunately for him, he said the bank did not know the robbery was an inside job and he was relocated to the Nakuru East Branch.

Perhaps Mr. Kamande had earned enough with the first booty when he resigned after the transfer. And now he wanted his fingers in the cookie jar a second time.

According to the plan, the robbery was supposed to happen on the eve of Mashujaa day. The plan changed, however, as the bank postponed the repatriation of the cash.

The team held a brief meeting on October 20, and the gang received five keys – one for the main door, another for the trapdoor grill, one for the wooden door, and two for the door of the money counting area.

You should test them and confirm that all of them have successfully opened the doors.

Meanwhile, the gang had carried out fake robberies, the last on October 20. They did not know that there was a police informer with them who kept the officers informed of what was happening.

On the night of October 22, 2012, the robbers stormed the Nakuru East branch. Although they had prepared for a bloodless walk, they were prepared for the worst.

The police camped there too, waiting to ambush them and catch them alive or dead.

Three were gunned down and 30ATM cards and a Sh11,500,000 deposit slip were recovered. In addition, two vehicles with the license plates KBR 156T and KBM 775H were confiscated.

It’s the informant’s leak that the bank used to kick Njoroge out.

Judge Onyango dismissed the Njoroge case in a November 11, 2021 ruling, ruling that the bank had every reason to fire its former employer.

“From the foregoing, I note that the plaintiff has not demonstrated that the termination of his employment relationship was unfair,” said the judge.

“Nor has he proven that the charges were malicious.”

Given that a bank deals with a lot of money from its customers, a higher level of integrity is required from bank employees.

“A bank cannot be expected to employ people whose integrity it has valid and reasonable doubts,” said Onyango.

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