Police probe motorbike theft cartel

Boda boda riders

Boda boda riders outside Green Park Bus Terminus in Nairobi on April 27, 2021. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

On January 15, 2022, the body of David Thiaine, a 22-year-old boda boda rider, was found dumped at Kithoka area in North Imenti. His motorbike was gone.

Thiane had just acquired the motorcycle one month earlier and business was doing well.

On the fateful Saturday, Thiaine is said to have left Kwa Kairanya stage in Meru town at around noon.

According to Mr Eric Murithi, the chairman of Kwa Kairanya boda boda operators, police records indicated that the body was removed from the scene of murder at 4pm.

Thiaine was robbed of his bike and murdered in broad daylight.

"We learnt of David's disappearance on Sunday and mounted a search. The motorbike tracker went dead at Kwa Kamau along the Meru-Nanyuki road. When we finally found the body in the mortuary, the left eye had been gouged out while the right one was stabbed. He also had a stab wound at the back of his head," Mr Murithi recounts.

Thiaine was one of the four riders from Kea Kairanya bay to fall victim to a boda boda theft racket that has turned lethal and targeting cyclists across the country.

Middlemen

The gang with ties to middlemen as far as Ethiopia has been targeting newer motorcycle models that are easy to resell.

"We also noted a pattern where most of the stolen bikes are of the Boxer model. Also, all those who have lost their motorbikes were attacked with a machete. One of the customers is hospitalised after suffering panga cuts in the attack," Mr Murithi said.

According to riders who spoke to Nation, a gang of three has been moving around on a motorbike scouting for new motorcycles before they attack.

As Thiane was being laid to rest, detectives in Meru were combing through evidence which led to unearthing of a well-organised motorbike theft cartel.

Six prime suspects believed to be masterminds of the cartel have since been arraigned, while two others are under investigation.

According to Imenti North Sub county Criminal Investigations Officer Jamlick Kithinji, detectives broke into the racket that involves armed robbers and rogue traders who sell the stolen motorcycles as far as Ethiopia.

Police are now looking into several scenarios including treating the cases as normal theft, criminals posing as buyers and riders selling the motorcycle and reporting it as stolen.

Police radar

One of the boda boda owners who lost his motorcycle mid-January says his rider was ambushed at Thimangiri on the outskirts of Meru town at midnight, and the motorbike stolen.

Having acquired the bike on hire purchase only two weeks earlier, he called his financier's emergency line for tracking but it had long been switched off.

He recounts how when he reported the incident to the police that night, he was immediately treated as a suspect due to the emerging trend that has been on the police radar.

Detectives say the cartel has largely taken advantage of the now popular motorcycle hire purchase model where dealers only require a buyer to make an initial payment of Sh15,000 before receiving the boda boda.

The cartel also targets riders with relatively new motorcycles.

"Our investigations have established that the cartel has been exploiting the hire purchase model. It mostly involves three operatives — the financier, the one who poses as a buyer and another as a guarantor. The financier provides Sh15,000 needed for the deal and immediately the 'buyer' is given the motorbike, it is stolen," the detective said.

The plan is to acquire a motorcycle worth Sh130,000 at Sh15,000, disconnect the tracker and ship it to Ethiopia for resale.

Cartel

According to the investigators, two of the suspects linked to the cartel based in Meru were arrested in Moyale, Kenya, last week.

"The investigations are ongoing across the country because it is an organised crime with an intricate web. Two other suspects are ready to appear in court while those picked in Moyale are still under investigation. We are making progress," he said.

Early January, police in Mutuati, Meru, which is believed to have been the base of the cartel, recovered 23 motorcycles.

Igembe North Police Commander Mbatian Kantai said they suspected the motorcycles could be the ones bought on hire purchase before being stolen for resale outside the country.

Meru Boda Boda Association chairman Charles Thuranira says motorcycle dealers should also come clean on some of the incidences.

"The buyer has already paid for comprehensive insurance and tracking system. Once the motorcycle is reported stolen, it is the dealer who is compensated while the rider continues to pay a loan or treated as a suspect in the theft. There is need for proper regulation in the area of motorcycle dealership to address the crimes," Mr Thuranira said.

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