Thursday, 02 June 2011
BY STAR TEAM
INTERPOL has impounded a car registered in the name of a company associated with Eldoret North MP William Ruto in Eldoret. The Range Rover House is among several vehicles netted by the International Police Organisation a probe into an international car theft ring.
The vehicle’s engine number was traced by Interpol with the assistance of the Kenya Revenue Authority. The vehicle chassis and other identification numbers tally with those of a vehicle which had been reported stolen in the UK in 2005.
The Star learnt yesterday that the vehicle was registered under Amaco Insurance Company, one of the biggest underwriters for public service vehicles in which Ruto has interests. “Amaco bought the car for Ruto a few years back after Ruto requested a car. He has been using it until it was impounded.He does not seem bothered by the development because he has several cars,” said a Ruto confidant. The vehicle is now parked outside Kiptagich House which has offices for the KRA and the Central Bank in Eldoret.
The KRA officials on the lookout for the vehicle impounded it as it was being driven by one of Ruto’s drivers. They removed the number plate â€” KBL 001H â€” before driving the dark blue car valued at slightly more than Sh8 million to their yard. “We have all the documents for the car showing its origin, who sold it to us, at how much and the bill of lading that came with the car and KRA receipts showing the duty paid. The lawyers have been dealing with the matter and we hope it can be resolved soon so that Mheshimiwa (Ruto) can get back his car,” said a senior manager at Amaco who cannot be identified as he had not been authorised to comment on the matter.
Four other cars with foreign registration numbers are being held within the same parking as police investigate how they were brought into the country.
Interpol has in the last few weeks been sweeping Kenyan roads in search of stolen cars following reports that Kenya is becoming an important market for four-wheel-drive vehicles brought in by an international criminal ring operating in the UK and other parts of Europe. Agents from Interpol have carried out an operation in which dozens of expensive cars stolen in Europe were recovered. The operation ended last Thursday.
Kenyan police confirmed that they worked jointly with Interpol to recover vehicles, some of which were on the road and locally registered.
Seventeen vehicles were impounded on Wednesday. However, the Criminal Investigations Department director Ndegwa Muhoro said they were not in a hurry to take their owners to court. “Most of these people are innocent and we have to fully investigate to determine who is culpable,” said Muhoro in a report published on the website of the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators. The association, founded in 1952 in the US, has members from 33 countries.
A source at the Office of the President said the operation was carried out in secret so that those who had bought the stolen vehicles do not hide them. More swoops for stolen vehicles, this time saloons and station wagons, are planned based on the information received from Interpol, the source said.
The engine and chassis numbers of the vehicles impounded are being checked to establish if they were reported stolen in other countries.
Muhoro said the cross-border operation, which started in Burundi and Rwanda, will be extended to other countries in the region. He urged those intending to import vehicles to consult the Regional Interpol Office in Nairobi to make sure they are not buying stolen cars. “The service is free of charge but sadly, Kenyans are not making use of it,” he said.
Some unscrupulous people have been defrauding insurance companies by selling their vehicles in neighbouring countries and claiming they have been stolen.
The Interpol office has an inventory of all vehicles stolen across the world and at a click of a button they are able to tell whether a car was stolen or not.
Last September, a similar operation was conducted in Tanzania and 51 vehicles impounded. Twenty two of the vehicles were stolen from Japan, 12 from South Africa, eight from Malaysia, three from UK and one each from Kenya, Tanzania, Slovenia, Germany, Mozambique and Australia.
Self-driven hired cars are increasingly becoming targets of an international car theft syndicates in Kenya. The cartel has been stealing an average of 10 vehicles each month from major towns and smuggling them to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Malawi via Tanzania and Uganda. They hire the cars posing as clients or hold drivers of hired vehicles hostage, drug them or tie them up before driving off with the vehicle.
Another coordinated Interpol operation conducted in 2007 in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda netted hundreds of stolen vehicles. Head of Flying Squad Munga Nyale said car thieves had changed tactics and were hiring self-drive vehicles for an extended period, which they then drive across the border before they are reported missing.
The syndicate had reportedly infiltrated the Registrar of Motor Vehicles offices, where it obtains blank logbooks that are used when smuggling stolen vehicles across the border.