On Jan 5 1997, Charles Omondi Odhiambo walked into the Kenya Airfreight Handling Limited offices at JKIA and left with $ 1 million. It was one of the biggest robberies in Kenyan history at the time. No one was hurt. He didn’t even use a weapon.
He walked in that evening with nothing but a few papers and a couple of titanium balls. He handed the papers over to cargo handlers Simon Karanja and Julius Leglek Rotich. They were clearance papers allowing his company Chacho Inter Afric Services to pick the money. The package was an 11 kg bag containing a million dollars. Ksh 54,000,000 then and Ksh 103, 305, 000 today! It belonged to Citibank (Fedha Towers, Muindi Mbingu Street branch).
Omondi strolled out with his package and vanished. It was cleaner than in the movies.
The guys didn’t even know they had been robbed until the morning when the people who were actually supposed to pick up the money showed up! The Wells Fargo peeps couldn’t understand how someone else had come and done their job. So everyone panicked! They started making frantic calls and examining the clearance papers. They looked legit alright, were even signed by someone from Citibank, a Martin Njoroge.
They had been played like TID’s zeze.
The robbery was hushed up as investigations kicked off. But even three days later, when the press finally got a whiff of the story and stunned the country, no one had the faintest clue where Charles was.
He had done what the #ThikaHeist guys couldn’t figure out: diss a pear!
His picture was circulated with a bounty of Ksh 250, 000. It was later raised to Ksh 1, 000,000. Omondi was still out of reach.
The money was in $ 100 bills with serial numbers between AE60742001-AE60752000A. All banks were alerted and asked to report to the CBK fraud section if any of them popped up.
The police later claimed that he had been traced to a neighbouring county where he chilling, smoking sheesha and living his best life (okay, there was no sheesha, but its coler if you just picture it that way).
He was in Tanzania.
Over a year later, on March 12 1998, officers responded to a domestic violence incident reported by neighbours in Buru Buru. They arrested the man who’d been fighting his wife for moving houses in his absence.
They had no clue that it was the most wanted man in the country. Omondi had sneaked backed into the country a few days before and shifted lodgings till he tracked his wife down.
He was charged in court for the robbery where he claimed innocence. He said he’d gone through legit clearance procedure. That Martin Njoroge of Citibank had made him an agent for the bank and given him the ID. The money? He said he’d given it to Njoroge.
Omondi was sentenced to three years in prison but was pardoned by the president in 2002. He went underground and resurfaced 11 years later in Siaya as, Chacho, a prominent businessman with a sports products shop in Ugunja.
In 2013, he declared intentions to run for the newly created Ugunja Parliamentary seat under an ODM flag, he pulled out prematurely.
(Allegedly because his opponents threatened to expose his past).
Noooope the money was never recovered.
Chacho is now a philanthropist who sponsors sports in the area, pays school fees for needy students, and leads efforts to install electricity, sink latrines urinals for boys and purchase laboratory equipment for schools.
His friends swear that he’s a model citizen.