What started out as a mission to recover more than Sh313 million stolen from a G4S van in Mombasa 10 years ago has come back to haunt detectives who investigated the matter.
While it has been established that some Sh25 million recovered by police was not produced in court as evidence, those implicated in the theft have unsuccessfully reclaimed the money and several other items.
But a ruling by the High Court in Mombasa has reopened the forgotten case, and this may lead to investigations into where the money is or who pocketed it.
Justice Anne Ong’injo has allowed a request by four people who were implicated in the theft of the Sh313 million to have the Sh25 million and several other items seized from them produced and returned to them.
“This court, therefore, finds that the applicants are entitled to return of the items that were recovered from them and which were not produced in court during their trial,” the judge said.
Justice Ong’injo noted that a Mombasa detective and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, who were sued in the case, had not established that the exhibits that were not produced in court did not belong to the four people.
The court has established that Sh25 million was recovered and recorded in inventories but it was not produced in court during the trial in a magistrate court.
“My understanding is that the applicants are seeking the release of what was recovered and recorded but which the investigating officer didn’t produce in court,” the judge said.
The application for the release of the items was filed by Jacob Mutuku, Sylvester Mbuli, Amos Mutuku Musyoka, and Patrick Karanja, who were implicated in the theft of the millions.
The money was recovered from the four in different currencies including euros, pounds, US dollars and Kenyan shillings. Other items seized from them when they were arrested in 2010 include sofa sets, motor vehicles and fridges, which the court was told were also kept in the custody of the Coast regional DCI police headquarters.
The four applicants were acquitted of several offences regarding the theft, including conspiracy and handling stolen property after the State failed to link them to the offences.
After being acquitted, the four returned to the court to seek the release of the money and the property.
Court documents show that the four asked the court to compel the police to return the items to them as they had been absolved of wrongdoing.
The Sh25 million in different currencies included 200,000 euros, Sh2 million, $5,700 and 4,000 pounds.
What has come out of these proceedings is that police recovered Sh25 million from the four but failed to produce the money in court.
The four moved to the court after they failed to recover the money from the police.
“The goods, money and properties are being kept by the investigating officer and there is a clear inventory of the items that were taken from us. Several demands have been made both to the police and the DPP to release the items but all in vain,” they said in an affidavit.
The items, they say, were taken from their residence on February 26, 2010 by detectives, led by Paul Chebet.
In addition to the money, the affidavit shows, the police also confiscated couches, a TV set, a wall unit and a motor vehicle, which were never produced in court as exhibits.
“Unless the same is released to us, we are likely to suffer irreparable loss and damages. We pray that justice is served in this matter,” they pleaded.
The police, however, argued that the four should not seek to retain the items, which they said were seized and proven to be proceeds of crime.
The court also heard that 541,000 euros and 25,170 Swiss francs recovered and produced in court had been released to G4S.
Mr Chebet responded that the decision not to produce the alleged goods and money in court followed deliberations with the legal team.
“The money was kept in safe custody as well as the other items at the regional DCI Coast police headquarters,” he said.
But the four rejected claims that the seized property was proven to be proceeds of crime, noting that they were not charged under the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act.
“The Assets Recovery Agency neither instituted recovery proceedings nor pursued to prove that the exhibits were proceeds of crime. The claim that properties seized from us were proceeds of crime was an afterthought and therefore lacks merit,” they said.
The DPP, through Theresa Mwangeka, said that the fact that inventories were produced in court proved the ownership of the exhibits but added that the remedies sought by the four are outside the agency’s constitutional mandate.
The four were among eight people the State accused of stealing the money that disappeared in transit from Mombasa to Nairobi.
Others implicated in the theft but acquitted were Eunice Mwende Musyoka, Francis Kitonyo and Humphrey Kabanga Njau.
They were charged alongside G4S employees Sylvester Mbisi Mutua and Humphrey Wekesa Wanjala, who were convicted and jailed for 10 years.
Mutua and Wanjala were crew commander and radio controller respectively.
The theft happened on February 12, 2010. The two had been assigned to the Bank of Baroda, Standard Chartered Bank, Barclays bank, the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), and Kenya United Steel Company to escort cash for the institutions.
On the day of the theft, the two picked up the money from the three banks under the escort of police officers in a chase car before heading to CBK, Mombasa, where they stayed for a few minutes.
They then informed the police officers that they needed to drive back to the Bank of Baroda.
While at the bank, some metal trunks were removed from the crew vehicle and taken into the bank. They later drove to Standard Chartered, where Wanjala allegedly informed the officers that someone wanted to meet them at Barclays bank on Nkrumah Road.
Mutua then went into the bank to get some luggage and locked himself inside the van upon returning, leaving the police officer outside. He and Wanjala then suddenly sped off, leaving the officer stranded. The officer reported the matter at the Central Police Station.
The two took the money loaded in the boxes and abandoned their vehicle.
Some 514,000 euros and 25,170 Swiss francs were recovered.
Records found in one of the boxes indicated that Standard Chartered had handed over to the G4S crew $640,000, 93,000 pounds, 1,775,000 euros and 55,170 Swiss francs.
The Bank of Baroda had handed over Sh7 million belonging to United Steel Company, which had contracted G4S to move it on its behalf.
Not even a quarter of the Sh313 million stolen was recovered.