Former bank robber turned writer, John Kiriamiti, and his former accomplice, George Githenji, say their life in crime was all in vain despite executing more than 100 successful heists.
Speaking to the Daily Nation in Murang’a County, Githenji, 75, revealed the highest amount he ever made in a single heist.
“The highest figure I pocketed in one heist more than 40 years ago was Sh200,000 and the least was Sh120,000. That was equivalent to today’s Sh2 million and Sh1.2 million,” he said.
Kiriamiti added: “And we are not talking of one heist or even 10. We are talking of robbers who had perfected the art with time and executed more than 100 raids.”
The pair said they squandered their proceeds on alcohol, women and entertaining their friends.
“Within 10 minutes, I would have earned Sh200, 000 from a successful bank heist. And within 10 minutes, I would spend at least 50, 000 in the sin industry,” Githenji said.
Worked in Cahoots With Cops
The reformed gangsters also revealed that they worked in cahoots with police to carry out the robberies.
“Ours was a world of its kind. Then, violent robbery was not the business of desperate and deranged teens. It was professional work like any other but done by daredevils.
“We took our time and visited the target scenes to draw an entry and escape strategy. But we had to first seek the nod of officers so they would look the other way when we hit,” said Githenji.
The officers would also help them acquire guns for as little as Sh200 per day.
“The rule was that you collect it in the morning and make sure you return it by close of business since the armoury had to be inspected. That is why banks had to be robbed in broad daylight,” recounted Githenji.
Kiriamiti recounted once incident where a chief inspector manning central division in Nairobi lent them three guns but things went South.
“A fierce gunfight ensued that resulted in us commandeering a police vehicle so as to try and return the guns in time,” said Mr Kiriamiti, adding that all the gangsters knew each other.
He also disclosed that the unwritten rule then was “never kill, rape or defile your victims. If it leaked that a criminal had, especially raped or defiled, the verdict was death to be executed by getting shot in the head.”
Married An Officer
The gangsters also recruited beautiful women to befriend police officers notorious for investigating armed robberies. Mr Githenji even married an officer, who in 1971 found that he was a criminal and arrested him in their bedroom.
“She just stumbled on my firearm hidden in the house and some money. She used the same gun to force me to surrender, warning that if I tried any monkey business, I would lose my life,” he recounted.
He tried to play nice, hoping that she would drop her guard so he could escape, but she was dead serious. Githenji said it was an interesting journey to Makadar police station having being arrested by his wife.
Kiriamiti added that there had another rule they abided by; “That a smart thug never engages police in an unnecessary gunfight.”
“Anytime officers got us flatfooted, we would hurriedly tuck away our arms and immediately seek ways to negotiate for freedom, which sometimes included surrendering all the loot to them and we walk away as unpaid robbers for the officers!”
All in Vain
When Mr Githenji and Mr Kiriamiti ‘retired’, they walked into a new life with no wealth, only memories of their escapades. Kiriamiti served 13 years while Githenji served 17 years for robbery with violence.
Githenji is now a farmer, having tried his hand in politics while Kiriamiti is an author behind bestsellers, My Life in Crime, Son of Fate, My Life with a Criminal.
Their advice to active criminals and crime enthusiast: “Forget it.”
“It is all in vain. Ask us and for free we will tell you that you will only waste your precious time for nothing,” said Mr Kiriamiti.
“Today, you will be lucky to raid three times before you are either dead under a hail of police bullets, crude weapons from mobs or sink away into jail.”
Additional Reporting by Daily Nation