Wilson Airport employee finds Sh2.3 million in cash in a bag and returns it

Dollar bills

The employee discovered a small bag that contained around Sh2.3 million ($19,000), some thousands of Kenya shillings, the tourist’s wallet and cards.

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Finders keepers, losers weepers … is clearly an adage that a police officer and Kenya Airports Authority workers at Wilson Airport do not agree with, after they returned a huge amount of money a tourist lost at the airport.

An airport employee discovered a small bag that contained around Sh2.3 million ($19,000), some thousands of Kenya shillings, the tourist’s wallet and cards, which he had dropped as he picked up his luggage at the airport.  

In a letter addressed to Customer Care, Kenya Airports Authority (KAA), Mr Benson Nickolson from the United Kingdom, who was vacationing in Kenya and Tanzania, narrated how if he had lost the money, “it had the potential of ruining our lives”.

Mr Nickolson was in charge of all his group’s resources and finances, so he had a substantial amount of cash and plastic money in form of cards that facilitated his group’s movements and comfort, he said.

The incident happened in the middle of their journey, he said without divulging when that was.

“We arrived in Wilson Airport with my entire group from (Maasai) Mara, where we were going to the hotel in readiness for the following day’s trip to the coast,” he said.

Their bags were brought to them from the aircraft on a trolley and passengers were allowed to collect them.

“With the help of our rider, we took our bags and headed to the hotel. When we reached the hotel, I noticed one of my bags was missing, coincidentally it was the bag carrying our cash, valuables and cards. I immediately called our rider who had been with us for more than one week.”

“He checked both vans but could not find the bag. I panicked and asked him to go straight to the airport as I took a cab from the hotel to the airport also. On my way, I called the airline to check if it was left on the plane. They called back, regrettably. I asked the airline staff to immediately check the CCTV of the airport, I was shocked to be told that the airport does not have CCTV.”

A panicked Mr Nickolson said he developed temporal insanity as it appeared they had no hope of recovering the bag.

As fate would have it, while in traffic near Kenyatta National Hospital, he got a call from a man who identified himself as Martin, asking to speak to Mr Benson.

He said he dismissed the caller because he thought he was speaking to a porter he had met in the Mara.

Martin did not give up and called again, insisting to know his identity, and this time mentioned that he was calling from Wilson Airport’s security office.

“I calmed down and told him that I am the one, he told me that a bag was found at the pick-up point and he was trying to trace the owner. I told him with disbelief that I was almost at the airport, I told my driver to drive fast,” he added.

He arrived at the airport and was directed to the office where he found Mr Martin Kamau, with his supervisor identified as Joseph, and a police woman.

“I found my bag and my wallet and cards spread on the table. The long story short, I found my bag and all contents intact. All the money totalling to around 19,000 USD and some thousands of Kenya shillings were all intact. All my cards were found intact. All other valuables, which included a regalia given to me by my late grandmother was also intact. It was a daydream for me.”

He added that he called his people at the hotel to break the good news and they insisted on sending one of them in a cab to verify the tale.

Mr Nickolson said that without any CCTV cameras, he could not comprehend how his bag with valuables was found and the owner called to collect it.

“My brother lost a tenth of that in South Africa where they have a robust CCTV but could not get anything. Therefore, it is not about systems, it is the human factor, the people, the staff who are the greatest asset. I had no recourse, that was my negligence, but I still got all my stuff and money. My brother arrived from the hotel and I confirmed with tears of joy and shock.”

According to the airport security, the bag was found at the pick-up point.

It appears that as the group collected their bags, Mr Nickolson accidentally dropped the small one with the money.

“In my country, this is not possible to recover. Only in Kenya, I can assure you,” he said.

In his parting shot, he said he wrote the letter to confirm to the Kenyan authorities that he would spread the good news all over the world and affirm Kenya as the destination of choice for tourists.

“To all persons working with or leading Martin Kamau, please receive this message of thanks. This is the best experience a customer could have in a foreign land.”

The group’s next holiday was scheduled for another country. “We have since reviewed to come back to Kenya due to the experience we got from this official and the team.”

“We will also sell Nairobi airport as the airport of choice to the world.

Finally, allow me to recommend installation of CCTV system in the airport for Wilson Airport. Thank you all.”

Speaking to Nation on the phone, Mr Kabangi, one of the security officers that found the bag said the incident happened early last month, adding: “It is not the first time that we have found lost items here, it happens a lot and what we do first is scan, before booking them at our lost and found section.”