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The alarming crime mostly targets car hire firms and middle ranking SUV's commonly known as
4x4's in Kenya which are parked in public car parks. What is shocking is that some police officers are believed to be highly involved with criminal rings as I shall explain later. A police officer based around Nairobi openly told me that some officers would not like to see this new crime go away any time soon as profits being made from the illegal syndicate are just mind blowing.
Before striking at the once booming car hire industry, taxis and parking lots, sharp minded members of the criminal underworld first arm themselves with fake IDs which are mostly being forged in River Road and sprawling Eastleigh areas of Nairobi. The fake documents look so real that they can even fool hawk eyed police officers and attendants in car hire offices simply have no chance in detecting the fake documents which mostly involve ID cards and Kenya's pathetic driving license which is written in plain ink. What is shocking is that some wanted criminals on the lose are known to use their original documents to secure vehicles. This is done with great ease since car hire firms don't coordinate in their profession in detecting crooks. They are just scattered allover town with some operating from street corners and using cyber cafes to photocopy the hirer’s particulars.
Once the criminal elements secure a vehicle for about 2 weeks and pay the charges, they go straight to KRA offices in Times Tower and conduct a search whereby you just pay Ksh 500 and present the number plates of the vehicle you want to obtain a copy of records for. This search basically produces the details of the car's owner like names and address plus important details of the vehicle like chassis number and whether duty is paid. If the details show that a vehicle is attached to a bank loan, it’s a hard sell and is dropped immediately. Once the crooks have obtained those details, they quickly contact their sources and production of the fake log book commences.
The fake logbook looks so real that even the best experts are having difficulty in telling the difference. A senior officer based in the city actually told me he prefers the old logbook which was phased out as it was harder to forge. With the car owner's name, a fake ID and Pin numbers are processed using fake digits and there's no way of verifying whether those numbers are real or fake. Armed with these documents, the conmen hit the road looking for buyers in places like car bazaars, brokers or placing a bait Ad in the newspapers. They always get a buyer quickly since they sell the vehicle cheaper than market rates and always give sympathetic excuses like “they need to settle a medical bill for their kids.,” Criminals are also known to target private homes, copy your number plates, make the fake documents and keep them ready and then when time is ripe, strike at night and by morning your vehicle has been driven all the way to Arusha!
When the car hire contract expires, the hire company has no way of getting hold of the 'hirer' since mobile phone numbers can be changed daily without any questions being asked. In fact you can even buy a thousand mobile sim cards all with different numbers without any question being asked. So the vehicle is now stolen, sold or even disposed to secure a loan from back street money lenders popularly known as 'shylocks.' If the vehicle is fitted with a car tracker, then it can be recovered and taken to the nearest police station, leaving the duped buyer in shock of his life. Some police officers are known to intimidate the conned buyer by telling them they face charges of handling stolen vehicles and being in possession of forged documents! Many conned buyers now have to be hit again when police demand a bribe to set them free.
Releasing the car to its original owner is not easy until they can produce “kitu kidogo” to the officers. What is shocking many people however is that in some cases once they sell the car illegally, some crooks are known to contact certain police stations where they have their protectors and tip them about the buyer’s location and contacts! It's also believed that some crooks take a certain percentage to their protectors to enable them 'lose' some current or future files with their cases.
As we can see, crooks are exploiting the searc' system at Times Tower where no questions are asked to anyone who wants a copy of records. Also our weak telephony system is being exploited in obtaining new lines without any form of checks. Car Tracking firms which are mostly owned by politically well connected families are also being blamed due to their exorbitant prices which scare off many Kenyan motorists. Gullible auto buyers who are so many should slow down when they see a hot offer. If you come across an Ad asking for ‘cars wanted for hire’ and claiming to pay up to 40k, please think twice. Does the hire firm have an office? How long have they been in that office? Can they refer you to some of their clients?
If the offer is too good to be true, then it probably is. I would advise they take any documents being presented as original to Times Tower or any specialist auto dealers for verification. A well known crook that is based in Ngara area is known to steal up to 10 cars per week with impunity. His favourite snatch points include parking lots and car hire firms and he's known to steal a car and sell it in just less than 3 days! Something surely needs to be done but so far, the crime goes on untamed. Shock! Shock! Auto dealers are now being caught up in this scam. Some are selling stolen cars with fake documents and if you are conned, the legal redress can take ages till kingdom come if the file doesn’t disappear! Before you buy any vehicle in Kenya, think thrice!
(Investigations carried out by raw notes subscriber who fell victim three times!!)